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What to Expect When You’re Promoting: Why a First-Time Author Changed Her Expectation

Categories: Author Platform, Breaking In (Writer's Digest), Children's Writing, Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns, How To Sell More Books, Marketing and Sales, Picture Book Agents, What's New, Writer Platform.

I’m a proud, picture book mommy. This means that you’ll most likely see me (a) squeal at the sight of my book, (b) pass off a copy to family, friends, and anyone within arm’s reach, or (c) smell my new book’s smell, often. This picture book is my baby, and I’m in love. Aren’t you in love, too?

I know. You’re probably not.

(Click here for a list of picture book agents.)

GIVEAWAY: Gina is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: DebbieL won.)




Guest column by Gina Bellisario, author of several forthcoming picture
books. Her debut book, THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN ILLINOIS
(Sterling Children’s Books), was published in October 2012, followed
by four titles in the series, Cloverleaf Books ™–Community Helpers
(Millbrook Press). The titles are set for publication in February 2013.
To learn more about Gina, her books, and her upcoming promotional
events, visit her online at www.ginabellisario.com.



Being a new author, I thought the opposite. I figured others would embrace what I’d created. I had this expectation with the birth of my twins, then again with my very first book. It has Ferris wheels, a true ghost story, Midway monsters, and sock monkeys. And who can resist an adorable monkey face?

So when I set out to promote THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN ILLINOIS, I did with my expectation in mind. I planned to show it and say, “It’s arrived! Check it out!” and my contacts would be openly enraptured. If I heard dulcet angels at the sight of its cover, it’d naturally happen for everyone.

(Will a literary agent search for you online after you query them?)

Call my feeling, new author instinct.

I went ahead and paraded a copy around. I visited booksellers and stores with an Illinois interest, and I spoke to relevant parties across the state. I shared the title, the book’s premise, and a joy that felt catchy. “Go ahead. Take a peek,” I offered onlookers. They’d hold it and see it was meant for great things. I was sure as I stood there, tall and gushy. But as they turned the pages—those precious, happy pages—I heard:

“Okay. Come back when our event coordinator is in.”


“Send us a review copy. Thanks.”

It wasn’t “Sensational!” or “Wow, cool!” or “Everybody, come look!” It wasn’t a gasp to catch an overly-eager breath. Instead, their response was all business, a business about money, and delighting in my book was not part of that. They were book buyers, I had to remind myself. Every book costs them something to carry. So I passed along my card and thanked them for their time. Then I smiled, first at them, then at my book. I was still a proud author, but I quickly had to realize that no one could feel my same pride. They couldn’t about what they didn’t create.

(What are overused openings in fantasy, sci-fi, romance and crime novels?)

It struck me that I had to change what I expected. I could continue to promote, give the release date and that, but I’d have to accept a reaction other than mine. I had to quit with the baby pictures and chill.

Now when I stop in a store, I’m a different kind of mommy. I’m relaxed about the response towards my picture book. Sometimes, I’ll get someone who refers me to someone else. Other times, I’ll get a question about cost. The responses aren’t meant to celebrate my happiness or what I’ve written. They’re meant to conduct business, and that’s okay.

But then there are times I hear:

“Awesome! This book is great!”


“Fantastic! We’ll do a signing.”


“My daughter loves sock monkeys. How adorable!”

And to hear that I couldn’t be more proud.

GIVEAWAY: Gina is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: DebbieL won.)



Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
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latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


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17 Responses to What to Expect When You’re Promoting: Why a First-Time Author Changed Her Expectation

  1. shelleystringer says:

    Wow. And I’m sitting here thinking someone will take one look at my book and say, “Oh my gosh, another vampire romance novel! We have to get this one on the shelves!” Thanks for a great article that prepares us for the inevitable. I just hope to get as far as you have. Good luck to you!

  2. Karen77 says:

    What a great twist on the 12 Days story! Very fun, best wishes to you. Thanks for the input, I’m a freelance magazine writer working on a book project also. You humorously reminded me to keep it in perspective.

  3. wendyleek says:

    I wish you luck with your new book. I am also a lst time author; though I’m still waiting for a certain publisher to accept my lst book.

  4. Born and raised in Illinois, the state in the title immediately grabbed my attention!

  5. DebbieL says:

    Congratulations! Sounds like a great book. I will have to check it out.

  6. michelle615 says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience – I’m sure if I were to be published I would react the same way. :) Congrats on your new book!

  7. Congratulations, Gina! Your passion for your ink-and-paper child is justified–and it will help you as you market your book!

    I felt the same way when my first book came out this year. It’s an historic nonfiction, based on a journal written by my great-great-great grandfather in 1838. It has a niche market–but I expected buyers from museums and historical societies to be excited about it. I was really sad when calls and emails from my publisher to those markets were met with lukewarm responses. So I went barnstorming and made cold calls.

    And it worked.

    I joked about my guerilla tactics, but who can resist an adorable guerilla face, right?

    At one state historical society, I had to chase the gift shop manager across his store and head him off before he could hide in his office. When I caught him, I smiled, shook his hand, and forced a copy of my book into it. He brushed me off–but later, he called my publisher, ordered 25 copies, and invited me to have a signing there on the 4th of July.

    Best wishes for continued success!



  8. Congratulations, Gina! Your passion for your ink-and-paper child is completely justified, and that passion will help others get excited about the book, too.

    When my first book came out last spring, I had mixed reactions from contacts, and felt just as indignant as you. My book, an historical non-fiction based on a journal written by my great-great-great grandfather in 1838, has a niche target market. My publisher’s calls and emails to museum gift shops and historical societies received lukewarm responses. It was really frustrating, because I’d poured almost 20 years into the book and I was so proud of the finished product.

    So I hit the road and drove from museum to county park to historical society last summer, barnstorming, with a box of books in the car.

    And it worked. I joked about my “guerilla” tactics (because who can resist a smiling guerilla face, right?) but meeting the buyers at the different shops seemed to help.

    At one state historical society, I chased the book buyer across the gift shop so he couldn’t duck into his office and hide. When I caught up to him, I smiled, shook his hand, and forced a copy of my book into it.

    He ended up buying 25 copies and setting up a signing for their 4th of July event.

    Book mommies know their children better than anyone else, so promote shamelessly and often!

    Best wishes for continued success!



  9. rdaviso78 says:

    Love the quit with the baby pictures and chill line! It’s hard to temper enthusiasm with business.

  10. dkeymel says:

    Happy New Year! I can feel your excitement about your book. I hope someday to get that same
    feeling. I will go now and visit you online.

  11. andreadorn says:

    I’m sure I’ll be the same way, “why aren’t people jumping up and down with me?” :)

  12. nkaur says:

    Congratulations! I will be on the lookout for your book!

  13. nkaur says:

    As a potential “parent,” I can feel your excitement. Congratulations, I wish you all the best in this joyous ride and pray that you will have many, many more “babies.”

    I can’t help but say “awwww” to the cover, your baby is adorable!

  14. vrundell says:

    As a fellow Illinoisan, the book sounds great. Checked out your blog and it’s wild to see one of my critique partners (Cherie Colyer) in the pic with you! Hopefully we’ll see you in Schaumburg for a signing when your next series comes out this spring. Best wishes!

  15. write4meandu says:

    Thanks Gina for your post. I liked your phrase, “proud picture book mommy.” As a budding author expecting my first children’s picture book publication within the next 8 months, I found your post very enlightening. Sharing your experiences will be helpful as I go forward in promoting my book. It’s a good reminder that a lot of the contacts I will make will come from the business arena. Therefore, I must approach them on that level, as well; as opposed to the “proud picture book mommy” phase.

    Also, I read the summary about your book and it seems very interesting. A lot of children will have fun reading and learning about Illinois. As a teacher-librarian, I will look forward to ordering your book for my school library media center. Best wishes for your book!


  16. Chuck Sambuchino says:

    Just wanted to thank Gina for appearing on the GLA Blog!

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