Marketing Interview (& Contest) with Laura Purdie Salas

In September of 2008, Laura Purdie Salas joined up with Fiona Bayrock to explore marketing and PR possibilities for two of their picture books that were being published the next year: Salas’ Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of Schooland Bayrock’s Bubble Homes and Fish Farts. And they decided to do this exploration publicly—at their LiveJournal community, Bubble Stampede. Over the next months, the two authors discussed their marketing goals, their fears, and their plans.

I asked Laura if she’d do an interview here, to talk about what some of those plans were, how they year and the release went, and which ideas worked better than others. Happily, she said, “Yes.” Read all the way through—Laura has provided a TON of specific, practical information.

And leave a comment. I’ll enter you all in a drawing for Laura’s book Stampede! I’ll draw the winner next Wednesday, September 2.

And on to the interview.

BL: How did you and Fiona hook up? What made the two of you decide to work on your marketing plans together?

LPS: When I posted one or two Marketing Monday posts on my personal blog, I told readers that I’d be sharing my book promotion journey. Fiona Bayrock and I knew each other from being on the NFforKids Yahoo group, and she emailed me to suggest we join forces and do a joint blog. I thought that was a fantastic idea and said, “Yes, let’s!”

BL: Why did you decide to do the planning publicly, on the community blog?

LPS: Well, I had a nice motive and an ulterior motive. The nice motive was that I like to share stuff on my blog, when possible, that is information and that’s hard information for beginners to find. My ulterior motive was that by sharing my promotion tasks, I’d be promoting my book, of course. Also I hoped to get feedback and ideas from some writers who were more experienced than me. And we did! Finally, I thought being public about it would help make me accountable and keep me on track.

BL: What were your biggest/basic marketing goals for Stampede!?

LPS: Here’s the list I was working from.

Interview/Reviews

  • Contact local media (personally & also through publisher’s publicist). Do again in summer with a back-to-school angle
  • Approach blog reviewers about sending review copy (give list to publicist)

ONLINE

  • Create a STAMPEDE website and give it some presence on my website
  • Create “billboard presence”—my word for a static online site/page that you don’t have to change a lot—on Facebook, Linked In, MySpace, Ning, etc
  • Update Flapjacket, Children’s Literature Network, and other sites that list my books
  • Do an ongoing marketing blog with Fiona Bayrock

Events

  • Book launch
  • Local book events with another author?
  • Attend IRA (International Reading Association) in May this year, here, in Minneapolis
  • Possibly attend ALA (American Library Association) in Chicago
  • Try to arrange to speak at some conferences in 09

Reaching out to Teachers/Booksellers

  • Teacher’s guide
  • Reader’s theatre
  • Authorless event kit? (A set of online materials a bookstore can print out to create a fun storytime with reading, activities, maybe a craft…all without too much work on the bookseller’s part and no in-person visit from the author.)

Reaching out to the Press

  • Create an online press kit
  • Update my bios
  • Create some resource materials (10 Great Back-to-School books, 10 Terrific Poetry Books, etc.) to share in press materials and also on Amazon
  • Write a back-to-school piece for news wire

Name Recognition

  • Guest-teach a couple of classes in the Whidbey Island Writers Association
  • Serve on poetry panel for CYBILS awards
  • Write a bi-monthly poetry column for Kid Magazine Writers
  • Attend local book club with media specialists, kidlit profs, and children’s book buyer for the entire Minneapolis metro area as members, etc
  • Anything that can bet my name in front of people and where I can slide a mention of Stampede! in there

Miscellaneous Stuff

  • Book trailer
  • Blog campaign to get people to request that their library buy a copy of the book
  • Have promotional items made
  • Campaign contacts to review the book on Amazon and B&N
  • Mail press kit to local media
  • Have postcards made as soon as cover is final and start handing them out now!

Mailings

  • Start updating contact list so that I can do mailing to schools, libraries, independent booksellers, and personal contacts

BL: What were your marketing fears?

LPS: In-person events scared me the most. I was losing sleep about a book launch. The idea made me so nervous. The other big fear was just that everything would fall flat. The more you put into it, the harder you try, the bigger our humiliation is if it all falls flat.

BL: Where and how did you gather your initial ideas about what a marketing plan might include?

LPS: The fantastic blog Shrinking Violet Promotions was a great starting point for me. Also, I had been saving emails and articles and all sorts of stuff for years in a folder marked Promotion. It was a “someday” folder…and someday came, and I really did use a lot of that information!

BL: What marketing to-dos went on your original list of things to focus on?

LPS:

  • Contacting the publicity department at my publisher
  • Building the microsite for Stampede!
  • Creating the book trailer
  • Figuring out a book launch

BL: Did you accomplish that whole list?

LPS: I did do all the stuff on that short list, though I ended up doing an online launch. It was a ton of work, but it was also lots of fun. The launch happened in April, but all the activities and comments are still live here.

BL: What was the best thing about marketing your book?

LPS: That’s a tough question, since marketing doesn’t come easily to me. Um…One was that putting so much effort into this really made me appreciate the value of my book. I risked my time, energy, money, and pride, knowing I might not get something in return—but felt like my book was worth it. Two was that by putting a lot of visible effort into Stampede!,I made my publisher aware that I was willing and able to promote my book. And that in turn made my publisher more willing to promote my book, like by sending me to ALA Chicago (and Texas TLA—Texas Library Association—next spring). This is a lot of money to spend on an unknown author, and I think (though I don’t know for sure) that my own promotion efforts indirectly lead to this.

So much stuff we do in marketing has no immediate, tangible result, so it’s hard to evaluate. But I do think impressing your publisher as a busy, effective marketer can only help!

BL: What was the hardest thing about marketing your book?

LPS: Handing out postcards or flyers or whatever at conferences—that is just so not me. Even as I’ve gotten more confident and a little more experienced, I’m still not comfortable with this. OH! And the other hardest part was in bookstore/signing events. Some were better organized than others, and some resulted in a few book sales. But I do not have a salesperson’s personality, and three hours out of too many Saturdays resulting in three books sold just got kind of old.

BL: With the book launched and “out there,” and looking back, is there something you now see as a must-do for writers?

LPS: If you’re not 100% comfortable with marketing, partnering up with another writer with a new book out is what I would consider a must-do! Teaming up with Fiona Bayrock for some online promotion at Bubble Stampede pushed me to do more. And for in-person events, which are what really intimidate me, teaming up with Dara Dokas (Muriel’s Red Sweater) was such a wonderful thing for me. The other must-dos, I think, are:

  • A website or section of a website devoted just to your book
  • Teacher-support materials (reading guide, reader’s theater, etc.)
  • Getting your book into the hands of reviewers (both print and blog)
  • Increasing your visibility in the writing community—don’t always focus on just one book; the more visible YOU are, the more people will recognize your name and hopefully check out your book(s)
  • Make postcards and/or business cards featuring your book cover and hand them out freely

There are a few things I never got to on my list, mostly because I ran out of time.

  • I never did any mailings
  • in-person launch (fear factor, more than time factor)
  • More billboard presence for my book on various online platforms

BL: Are there any other recommendations you’d give to writers whose book will be published in the next year?

LPS: I know I said bookstore events weren’t that successful for me. But it’s great to do them to build relationships with your local booksellers. I’m doing a reading at Red Balloon Bookshop in October, but they also hooked me up with an event at a minor league baseball game and recommended me to a school looking for (paid) author event. Booksellers have all kinds of connections with schools and organizations, so it’s smart to make them aware of you, your book, and what you might have to offer.

Start early. Some of this stuff takes a ton of time! And bookstores and other venues plan events for the future.

Don’t beat yourself up. I did as much as I could for Stampede!. I wanted to learn what works best for me. I didn’t get to everything, but I tried to just be proud of what I did do. And with my next book, I’ll be more selective, concentrating on the kinds of things that worked well the first time around.

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29 thoughts on “Marketing Interview (& Contest) with Laura Purdie Salas

  1. LK says:

    Great info! Thank you Becky and Laura. I agree about the book signings, as I had the same results. Now and then as a way of putting your name out there (and handing out bookmarks and excerpts) is a good thing, but I wouldn’t spend much time on this. By the way, most bookstores will be glad to accept bookmarks to make available to their customers even without a signing.

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  2. Terrific interview! [waves to Laura and Becky]

    I have to say, having a partner throughout the process made it so much easier…the accountability as Laura mentioned, but it was also terrific to have each other to celebrate or commiserate with as we each went through the same phases. And then there’s the “two heads are better than one” thing…

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    • beckylevine says:

      Hey, Fiona–thanks for stopping by. I think Bubble Stampede was amazingly helpful to us. Glad it was a good thing for you, too! 🙂

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    • That’s so true, Fiona. It was great to have those conversations, both on stage (on the blog) and behind the scenes (through email). It gave us a way to proudly show off some result without it sounding too braggish, I hope. And gave us a kind atmosphere in which to confess something that didn’t quite happen as we hoped.

      And yay on the two heads part! I learned lots and avoided a few wrong turns based just on our conversations and on your bringing up aspects of some task that I hadn’t considered.

      And congrats on that fab review in Fuse #8! You rock!

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  3. Oh I’ve been enjoying seeing some of this through the year, and it’s cool to see the recap. Even though it’s kind of exhausting to read that list.

    And surely all of this not only made your book more visible, but Laura don’t you think it changed you, too? You talk about the fear factor re launch, but then you launched off the poetry reading at ALA! Now you can do anything, yes?!!

    Thanks for the great interview, Becky!

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    • Hi Jeannine! Oooh, good question. Little by little, the marketing stuff I’ve done (in addition to the school visits and conference talks that I was already starting to do before Stampede came out) has changed me–you’re right. I’ve gotten more confident about public appearances and marketing tasks bit by bit.

      Of course, my hands were still trembling like aspen leaves at the ALA Poetry Blast, but I did survive it. And I even got good feedback.

      I think doing this marketing stuff is similar in one way to doing the writing itself: Both require a giant leap of faith, a willingness to plow ahead and risk failure. The only difference, I guess, is that the failure of a writing piece is slightly more private.

      Thanks, Jeannine!

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  4. Jennifer Beasley says:

    What a fantastic interview! Great information, I hope to use in the future! Thanks for sharing it! A lot of hard work, that I hope pays off for the both of you! Congratulations and I wish you much success on your books! Happy writing to you both!

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  5. Wow! Hi, everyone. So good to see you all, and thanks for all the kind words. I’m glad many of you found the recap helpful and I hope you all have a fun time promoting your own books. OK, fun may be pushing it:>) But maybe you’ll find something challenging and creative and satisfying about the whole thing. I hope so!

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  6. Like others have said, this is going in my someday folder too. I may even use this as a working plan in my business group!

    Thanks so much for the honest interview. It’s all about getting out of our comfort zone sometimes isn’t it?
    : )

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  7. I love the notion of joining marketing forces. Although I’ve never officially done so, being able to throw ideas back and forth with friends who are at the same place in their careers is a huge blessing. It makes this whole marketing adventure much easier – and more fun!

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  8. Shawna says:

    Wow! What great information. I’m going to bookmark this one.

    Hi Becky. I’m so far behind in all my blog reading I’m not sure I’ll catch up but I just had to say kudos on this post. Excellent interview, wonderful advice.

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