Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Ballad of Jessie Pearl: A Book Birthday

Hello everyone! I apologize for being more absent from this blog than usual. A bit of radiation was added to my ongoing treatment schedule, which messed with my writing life for a bit. To make up for my absence, though, I have a special treat for you.

February 1st will be a very special book birthday. The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, a historical fiction debut novel published by Namelos and written by a wonderful writer, and my friend as well as critique pal, Shannon Hitchcock, will be officially released. Insert celebration dance here.

Already this novel has received lovely reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. (PW review here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-60898-142-7.

As if this is not enough reason to break out the party cake, the amazing Richard Peck liked Jessie Pearl enough to write a cover blurb for the novel: “With the poetry of plain speaking, Shannon Hitchcock recreates the daily drama of a vanished world.” Wow. Let loose the balloons and confetti.

Inspired by Shannon’s family history, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl begins in 1922. Young and spirited Jessie has big plans for her life, until tuberculosis forces her to put her dreams on hold. Oh, and she falls in love for the first time, too. Pushed into confronting what she really wants, and what she is willing to sacrifice for it, Jessie learns that fighting for one’s dreams can be anything but simple.

Not only is Shannon a wonderful writer, she is also proving to be a whiz at marketing and promotion. She spoke on January 18th at the Florida SCBWI conference on a panel of debut authors, she is slated to speak at NCTE on a panel of southern authors in November, and she’s sold numerous copies of her novel out of the back of her car. Impressed yet? I am. So, I thought we’d chat with Shannon about marketing a debut novel.

Welcome, Shannon! So, how much of the marketing and promoting are you taking on (as compared to what your publisher may be doing)?

I look at marketing as a partnership. My publisher sent out approximately 150 copies of my book to reviewers and awards committees. Those are contacts that I don’t have on my own. I’m always reminded of a quote from Joyce Sweeney, “Your publisher is doing more than you think they are.”

What resources did you find most helpful in guiding you on how to market and promote your debut novel?

Lisa Schroeder has a handy “Timeline and Checklist for YA or MG Book Release” posted on her blog. http://www.lisaschroederbooks.com/2010/02/timeline-and-checklist-for-ya-of-mg.html.
I also highly recommend Katie Davis’s e-book: HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR CHILDREN’S BOOK. Oh, and use SCBWI. I wrote an article for my regional chapter and I spoke at the Miami conference.

Can I get you to share some of your marketing strategies, or how you have been or will be promoting? For example, how do you go about selling books out of your car?

I’ve made it my mission to contact all of my friends and relatives, contacts my publisher doesn’t have. I started by writing a letter to everyone on my Christmas card list and inserting two bookmarks. I invited the recipients to read my book and asked that they pass the extra bookmark to a friend who might also enjoy it. As for selling from the back of my car, I try and keep about ten copies of my book in the backseat. I’ve chatted up my book at church, the beauty salon, even the drycleaners, and then if anyone expresses interest in buying, I have a book handy to sell them.
I also uploaded my book trailer to YouTube, Vimeo, TeacherTube, and to my Goodreads author’s page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRXyeIJ4js8.

Since I hope JESSIE will be used in classrooms, I also worked with Debbie Gonzales to create a Curriculum Guide that is linked to the new Common Core State Standards. It’s available for free downloads, too: http://www.shannonhitchcock.com/forteachers.html.

I also gave my website a facelift to focus on my new book.

How much do you use social media, such as Face Book and Twitter, to promote? 

I try and tweet and post to Facebook a couple of times a day.

What would you suggest to someone just starting to promote his or her first novel?  What would you advise against?

Have bookmarks made as soon as your cover art is final. Bookmarks are relatively inexpensive and people love getting something for free. I advise against doing anything you detest. One of my critique mates hates to blog. She tried it and it’s not for her. I think if you hate doing something that you’ll find every excuse to avoid it.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m afraid I’m leaving out some vital pieces of the marketing puzzle. Maybe your readers will share tips and strategies in the comments section so that we can all help each other.

Thank you, Shannon! Wishing you every success with The Ballad of Jessie Pearl!
For more on Shannon and her fabulous novel, hit these links: