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

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... 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.)
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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.)

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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.”

or…

“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!”

or…

“Fantastic! We’ll do a signing.”

or…

“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.)

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