Becoming Mother

A book and a blog for first-time mothers

Category: Book Updates

Week 23: Practicing Generosity

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Last week, I wrote about practicing gratitude.

And if you’re truly practicing gratitude, generosity is sure to follow.

In the whole first year of my book’s publication, I sold about 150 copies.

Last week, I gave away 309 copies.

***

Let me explain.

Last year, I learned the Number # 1 Lesson of baby fairs and expos.

Everyone is coming for FREE stuff.

To try to convince someone to buy something at these events is almost impossible.

People were so confused when they would walk up to my table, their eyes searching for what they were going to walk away with. Hmmm… papers with words on them… Some books on book stands… Their fingers would slowly trace the tablecloth, their brains registering the fact that…

I really had nothing.

What I had were fliers, cards, and pamphlets with information on something that I wanted them to buy.

Ha.

All the other vendors had enormous bowls of candy (regardless of the season) or little goodie bags filled with free magnets, pens, and pamphlets. The smart ones also had a clipboard to collect email addresses for “a chance to win this diaper bag” or basket of baby books, or whatever.

Smart.

So this year, my approach at this past weekend’s baby fair was quite different.

I gave away my book. For free.

Kindle Direct Publishing allows me to run a free book promotion every three months. The dates of the most recent period coincided perfectly with a local hospital’s community baby fair. So I scheduled my promotion to run for three days, from Saturday, September 24th to Monday, September 26th.

I decided that I would give out half-sheets of paper with directions about how to get their free Kindle copy of my book. At the bottom of that half-sheet of paper, I politely asked for their Amazon review if they enjoyed the book. I also invited them to follow my blog by email.

Then, I told them to enjoy the book.

Their eyes lit up, their eyebrows arched.

“Wow. Thanks!”

“Awesome!”

“I’ll get it tonight!”

***

I didn’t advertise the free book promotion at all until Sunday, September 25th. I thought there might be a few people who would come across my book and download it on September 24th, but my main reason for beginning on this day was to have a buffer period for things to go wrong (i.e., Hey, why isn’t my promotion showing up on Amazon???) before the actual date when I need the promotion to be working.

So imagine my surprise when I checked on Sunday morning to see how many free Kindle books had already been downloaded.

97.

97 Kindle books.

I wasn’t sure I was reading the graph right. I read it and reread it. I put my finger on my laptop screen and touched the line.

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Holy shit.

Who were these people? Was there some special link that Kindle readers follow to immediately download new free Kindle books?

Whatever the reason, I felt incredibly grateful.

No, I’m not making any money. In fact, I’m still about $1500 in the hole for my accrued publishing and marketing costs.

But, hey.

By the end of this promotion, I had reached 309 new potential readers. Some of them will actually read the book. Some of them will recommend it to others. And some of them might even buy a copy for a friend.

Generosity makes the world go round.

Maybe giving away all of these books will lead to this book’s next big break.

Maybe it won’t.

But I feel certain that some new mom out there will end up with this book in her hands and feel comforted by its message.

And that makes the whole endeavor worth it.

Self-Publishing Costs and Benefits

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I don’t know how many copies of Becoming Mother I truly expected to sell on its release date.

Maybe 20? That could as least cover some of the costs that I’ve shelled out of the last few months. Yeah, 20 seems reasonable. Okay, maybe 15.

When I checked that evening around 10:00 p.m., I braced myself.

One.

One copy.

Really?

***

Success in publishing can be measured in a lot of ways.

Before I published this book, I braced myself for how the whole publication process might affect my own feelings of accomplishment and self-worth. Anyone who knows me knows that it’s easy for me to take criticism too close to heart. I have to mentally prepare myself for any heartless comments that may come my way.

I knew that by taking on the challenge of self-publishing, I was putting the responsibility for book promotion and sales entirely into my own hands.

I’m inviting you behind the curtain today, to show what self-publishing has been like in this first year post-publication. The nuts and bolts. The costs and benefits. The frustrations and joys.

Here we go.

Summary of Expenses

  • Cover design: $200
  • ISBNs: $300
  • NetGalley listing: $400
  • Booth fees for selling events: $400
  • Wholesale copies of book: $516
  • Facebook ads: $130
  • Book award contests: $240
  • IBPY Catalogue listing: $230
  • Misc: $285

Books sold, August 2015-August 2016:

  • Printed (through Amazon): 70
  • Printed (in-person sales): 37
  • Kindle: 39
  • KENFP earnings (by Kindle pages read): 3,107 pages
  • Total copies sold: 146

Earnings: approximately $900

Book reviews published:

  • Burrito Buzz, MothersAlwaysWrite, Project: Women
  • Amazon reviews in August 2016: 15 different buyers

Countries where my book has been sold:

  • United States, Great Britain, Japan, Australia

Blog Stats

  • Blog followers in August 2015: 45 followers
  • Blog followers in August 2016: 421 followers
  • Total blog views: 11,407
  • Total blog visitors: 6,814

Most visited posts/pages:

Other publications that have helped to promote my writing:

  • Kiwi Magazine
  • MotherAlwaysWrite
  • Project: Women
  • Imperfect Life
  • Fearless Formula Feeder

 

A lot of people could scoff at me for choosing the “easy way” to publication. I would scoff right back at them and say, “Easy? Are you kidding me?”

The only “easy” quality about it is that I didn’t have to spend the time flirting around to find an agent who might be interested enough in my work to get it in the hands of an editor at a publishing house, who might actually want to take the risk of publishing my work, who might not completely change my vision. In that sense, I was able to spend more time in honing the quality of my work and deciding exactly how I wanted to market the book.

Self-publishing wasn’t the easiest way to publish. But it did help me accomplish a few goals:

  • I was able to publish this work while I am still a mother of a young child. This helps me identify with my readers.
  • I had total control over my content, organization, and book layout.
  • I had immediate access to my sales records–so I could know when certain promotions were working or not working.
  • I retained my rights over my creative work.
  • Interested readers could easily access and purchase my book through Amazon.
  • I was able to market this book however I saw fit.

Some of the things that I did to market this book flopped. Some things worked well. Here’s what I’ve learned. Take it or leave it.

  • Do not do a Goodreads giveaway with the expectation that the winners will actually review your book. They just don’t. If you want to do a Goodreads giveaway, just do it out of the goodness of your heart and be thankful that someone who is not part of your regular social circles may read your book.
  • Facebook ads didn’t really produce many sales. Maybe they get your book cover in front of eyes and lead to a few clicks, but it never made a huge difference in sales for me. This was mostly wasted money, I thought.
  • Don’t be afraid to charge a fair price for your book.
  • Sometimes your buyer isn’t your reader…
  • Selling events are great… for figuring out how to market your book. They might not be great for actually selling that many books.

 

Instead, do these things:

1.) Above all: KEEP WRITING.

If you’re really a writer, this will not be hard at all. You love to do it anyway. You love it even though it doesn’t pay the bills. You love it even though you are rejected over and over and over again. You. Just. Love it.

2. ) Promote your most trafficked blog posts through Facebook promotions. (Hint: Being vulnerable often leads to highly trafficked blog posts. This means that you write about the tough stuff.)

3.) Blog. Regularly. But…

… save some stellar work to submit to other literary magazines or websites who are looking for original, unpublished work.

Find other places to submit your writing and submit often. Take the rejection. Take all of it because there will be a lot. Swallow your pride and keep going. You’re in this for the long haul.

  • Follow other people’s blogs.
  • Identify tags for posts that appeal to your target audience.

(For me, this meant following tags like pregnancy, motherhood, writing, baby, and parenting.)

  • Like and comment on other people’s posts.
  • Respond to every comment on your blog.

4.) Embrace the Power of Social Media

Disclaimer**: I was born in 1981, the very beginning of the Millenial Generation, and God, it shows. I graduated college before the advent of Facebook and smartphones, so I have a weird mix of social media literacy and social media repulsion. And yet… I cannot deny that it has helped me reach readers that I otherwise would never have reached.

Blogging has helped me connect with readers in Australia. Facebook has helped me promote my book to Facebook friends and friends of those friends.

I have not walked through the dark, dark threshold of Twitter yet. I fear I might never return. I have too doggone much to keep track of, so I limit myself to Facebook and blogging.

  • Establish an on-line presence through social media.
  • Create a Facebook page for your book and regularly update it with new blog posts, book reviews, book progress, and other related readings that you find noteworthy.
  • Like other Facebook pages for websites and books that are related to your topic.
  • Start interacting with other bloggers whose work you admire. Comment on their posts. Follow their blogs. Like their Facebook page. Then, see if they are open to receiving a free copy of your book and reviewing it. Graciously accept whatever review they create, be it positive or negative.
  • Attend writer’s conferences and workshops. Network. Learn about their writing, their blogs, and their books. Help them out and they’ll help you out. Oh, and while you’re there, learn about writing.

Be honest. Be authentic. Be you. No one wants a martyr. No one wants a superhero. People want authenticity. They want to see you down in the mud where they are–but they also want to see you climb out of it and shine.

Shine on, fellow writers.

Shine on.

From My Desk to Yours…

To celebrate the first six months of publication, I’m giving away two signed copies of “Becoming Mother” through Goodreads this month. Enter any time between February 8th and February 26th. Feel free to share with friends!

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming Mother by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Becoming Mother

by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Giveaway ends February 26, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Milestone # 1: 100 books sold!

While writing a book is hard, publishing and marketing a book–at least for me–is harder. Writing put me in the driver’s seat. I was calling the shots. I could craft and mold the future success of my book by the decisions that I was making.

But once my book became consumable, something for people to hesitantly pick up and flip through, something for people to silently judge and turn down, all my control was gone. The success of my book is now (mostly) out of my control. While I can present it in the best light possible, it’s ultimately the buyer’s decision.

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I wasn’t expecting to sell 500 books in the first few months of publication. I made my goal more attainable.

100 books.

That was how many I wanted to sell by the end of the year.

In October, I wasn’t so sure it was going to happen. Around mid-September, after the dust had settled from the initial rush of its release, I had sold about 55 books. October was a slow month. I didn’t have any sales events scheduled until the end of November, and I began to wonder how I was going to keep my sales going when I wasn’t pitching the book in person.

So I turned my attention to this blog. I started reading and commenting on other pregnancy and motherhood blogs. I started following other bloggers and liking their posts.

And you know what? My sales started climbing again.

I couldn’t believe it.

It wasn’t costing me anything (besides my time) to engage with other bloggers on-line, and blogging was paying off just about as much as it was for me to pay booth fees, sell in person, and pitch over and over again to complete strangers. So I kept at it. I kept writing throughout November. Good, solid content like “To the Syrian mother of triplets, fleeing from ISIS” and “The things you can’t leave behind.”

Throughout October and November, I noticed that I started reaching readers in other countries: Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. Although I can’t be sure that these sales came from blogging, I’m fairly certain they did.

So while I thought that direct in-person sales would lead to the most sales, I have been happily disappointed.

But in-person selling hasn’t been a waste of time. And I definitely recommend it for other writers. In-person selling has helped me to make contacts, network with others, increase my book’s visibility, and develop my own confidence and pitching skills. I know how to talk about my book to different audiences in under a minute. I know that many of my buyers are not new mothers. They are the family and friends of the new mother who are looking for a unique gift for the new mother. I have learned that some of my biggest buyers are women in their 50s and 60s whose daughters are expecting their first babies.

I have also been happily surprised in this journey of publishing.

In mid-November, I checked my sales and I did a double-take at the number of total sales. Usually, I sell about one or maybe two copies per week. When I looked over the details, I saw that I had sold six copies in one day. To whom? I have no idea. Since I didn’t sell as many copies in the days before or after that day, I thought it must have been a single buyer. Was it a book club purchase? That would be nice.

But it was someone who was willing to plop down $78 for six printed copies.

I can’t think of a greater compliment.

***

Interested in getting your own copy of Becoming Mother

 

Christmas Promotion: “Becoming Mother” $0.99 Kindle Book, 11/30 only!

If you’re a first-time mother (or father!), I wrote this book for you.

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This book isn’t about the baby.

It’s about the mother.

It’s about the huge physical, emotional, and psychological challenges that she faces every day as she struggles to be a mother. Not only is it great for first-time mothers, it’s awesome for new fathers and for friends who don’t have kids, but want to have an idea of what new mothers experience.

But I’d prefer to let you read what others are saying about this book. Check out these reviews below:

Dana Schwartz, Writing at the Table

http://danaschwartzwrites.com/2015/11/02/becoming-mother/

Tara Tona, Project: Women

http://thisisprojectwomen.com/2015/11/20/book-review-becoming-mother-by-sharon-tjaden-glass/

You can download the Kindle version of Becoming Mother: A Journey of Identity for only $0.99, (normally $6.99) on Monday, 11/30/2015 only! 

On Tuesday, 12/1, you can purchase it for $2.99.

On Wednesday, 12/2, you can purchase it for $4.99.

Spread the word!

 

 

 

Hara Arena: Dayton Time Machine

When I walked into Hara Arena to set up my booth for the National Holiday Gift Show, I wondered how it was possible that a place like this still exists.

You don’t have to look far to find glaring examples of how badly this place needs to be renovated.

From the graffiti-ed ceiling…

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To the flat-out gaping holes over the bathroom stall…

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To the electric (occasionally cobwebbed) 1970s chandeliers…

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To the concessions stand that makes me want to roller-skate up to the window and ask for some nachos…

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To the decorations that look like that scene in The Wedding Singer (the one where Adam Sandler totally loses it)…

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This place just flat-out makes me sad. Has it ever been renovated since it opened in 1964? Highly doubtful.

You don’t need a time machine to go back to the 60s. You just need to come to Hara. I dare say that many of the shoppers have aged along with the building.

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At first, you kind of wonder if everyone is blind to how decrepit this place is. But it’s amazing how much a well-designed booth can distract customers from the reality of being surrounded by a crumbling ceiling and dirty, water-stained walls (or are they stained with nicotine? I guess that’s possible too, considering how old this place is).

I don’t have much of a personal history with Hara Arena. My parents didn’t really take us to any public events when I was growing up in the 1980s in Dayton. (It could be been a financial issue, but I think it’s more likely that they just didn’t want to spend their energy corralling five kids in public. Grocery shopping with us was bad enough.)

Because I’ve never seen how awesome this place once was, I’m more likely to see how awful this place is today.

Hara was once a hot spot, the place where people came to watch a number of sports team (Dayton Jets, Dayton Gems, Dayton Bombers, etc) until they all left for different, hotter venues. In some respects, Hara seems to be a tale of a tragic love story. Once the hottest, coolest little number in town, perhaps Hara developed an undeserved sense of importance, born mostly out of the lack of competition of any other venues in town. Like a vain lover, perhaps Hara thought it didn’t need to change. If people thought that other places were cooler or more attractive, well then, fine. Go there.

I know how awesome I am… Hara may have thought.

But it’s not a secret that this place is struggling. Recent financial cutbacks have decreased their full-time staff to just 12 people.

Perhaps that’s why it took so long for the staff to turn off the blaring, crackling white noise over the loudspeaker (I think it was supposed to be Joy to the World? But who could tell?). Perhaps they had laid off the person who knew how to work the sound system.

So I guess renovations are out of the question.

But it makes you wonder how long this place will remain open.

In the meantime, I just feel sorry for this place.

 

Black Friday Selling Updates

So Black Friday selling wasn’t a complete bust.

Here are some highlights:

I was yelled at by a woman who was disgusted with my book.

She had corkscrew red and white hair and wore thin penciled eyebrows and a rumpled cream tunic. And she was most likely crazy. The interchange went like this.

“Becoming mother?” she said in disbelief. “What is this?”

“It’s a book about becoming a mother,” I stated the obvious.

She shook her head in disgust.

“What do you need a book for? God. What the hell?”

She points to the women walking behind her before she continued.

“We all did it! And we’re fine. We didn’t need a book!

“Well, it’s for first-time moms. Do you remember being a first-time mom?”

“Yeah, I do!” she yelled.

“Oh, okay. And you think it just wasn’t that hard?” I asked.

She shook her head in utter disbelief.

“I mean, what’s there to talk about?” she asked. “You have the baby, you take it home, they grow up, and then they die! God!”

(No, I’m not exaggerating this conversation at all. My mother was there to witness the whole thing–along with the other crazy dude that wandered behind my table and demanded to know WHAT I WAS DOING WITH ALL OF THIS!!!)

My guess is that this woman’s disgust with the concept of my book is a generational thing. Her comments struck me as implying something like, “Real women don’t think this is a big deal. You younger women need to get over yourselves and get on with being a mom. God!”

But then, I also had some nice conversations.

Besides the crazy people, I had some nice conversations with several women who were expecting babies in March and April. I talked with some excited future grandmothers who were thrilled to buy something for their newly pregnant daughters.

One pregnant woman told me that she had had four miscarriages in the last year and she was now at 23 weeks with her fifth pregnancy.

“This is the farthest I’ve gotten so…”

We commiserated about obstetricians and pregnancy and wondered why some doctors don’t try harder to figure out why you miscarry. (The culprit in her miscarriages was low progesterone levels–left undiagnosed throughout all of her miscarriages).

She bought a copy and I wished her good luck.

One woman had just become a grandmother twice in the last two months. She bragged about how big one of the babies was (“Eleven pounds, sixteen ounces!”) as she bought two copies of my book.

I sold five copies of my book, packaged in $20 gift sets, so I’ve covered about half of my booth fee.

Okay, so I knew I wasn’t going to be raking in money hand over fist at this event, but I don’t think my time spent today was a total loss.

I reached five new readers that I wouldn’t have otherwise reached.

I realized that it doesn’t really matter if I stand at my table or if I sit and do something else.

All of my customers have approached me while I’ve been typing or while I’ve been talking with my mother or sister. Not one person paused at my table while I was actively trying to get their attention or start a conversation. In fact, I think people preferred to not have the pressure of the vendor trying to reel them in (Hey, I know that I hate that…)

Tomorrow, I’ll go easier on myself and just try to enjoy the possibility of selling more books.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing this journey with me!

 

Live from Black Friday Book Selling

So I’m selling my newly published book at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio for the next three days.

A disclaimer: Selling like this makes me feel uncomfortable. As I’ve said before, selling like this makes me feel like *I* am on sale. This is a memoir, a book about my life.

So I tried to take the first comment of the day in stride.

An older man, a fellow exhibitor, walked by my booth as the doors were just about to open. He sized up my book and said, “Is this a book about being a mom?”

I said, “Well, it’s a book about becoming a mom.”

“Okay…”

He looked around my table.

“Is that all you have? Just the book?”

“Yep.”

“Hmm…”

Long silence.

I know that this booth is a bit out of place. There are hardly any items on the table.

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Just a small stack of books and a display of items for the gift set.

“Interesting…”

“Thank you,” I said.

“This isn’t really a reading crowd, but… good luck to you.”

Geez, Dude. Thanks for the pick-me-up.

Okay, so I’m more than a bit out of place.

I’m surrounded by far more exciting booths: a posh clothing boutique decorated with all things Parisian, a booth dripping with jewelry, and I swear to God, an Ohio State Football booth, manned by an actual Ohio State Football player (his jersey says “Cotton?”).

The doors opened at 9:00 and I debated in my head about whether or not it would be better to sit or stand.

I tried standing, looking out at the people passing by and saying hello.

Most of them didn’t want to make eye contact. Or they missed me completely as they darted to the Ohio State booth. I smiled. I said hello. I smiled. I said hello. Hello. Good morning.

Oh! Someone with a baby! Get her! Oh… she’s gone. 

Look at all of them around the Ohio State booth. God, they can’t get enough of it. 

No one here is going to buy this book. Look at all of them. He’s right. No one here reads…

Okay, maybe standing isn’t working. Maybe I should try the disinterested approach.

I sit down and start typing away on my computer.

At least I don’t have to be bored while I tailspin into low self-esteem.

***

At least there are a lot of people here. There is a steady stream of people passing by my booth.

While I’ve been writing this, a woman stopped by my table and said that she wished she would have known about this book a little sooner. Her niece just had a baby on Monday.

“Oh, really? This is actually even better for her now that she’s had the baby. This book goes all the way to the end of the first year postpartum.”

Her eyebrows lifted. She thumbed through the book as we chatted.

She eyed the price, the purchasing options. I told her that I was selling the gift set today and that if she wanted just the book she could get it on Amazon for a bit cheaper.

“I’ll think on it.”

I offered her my card and she smiled as she took it.

We said good-bye.

Oh well…  I thought.

I resumed typing away on this blog post and noticed someone staring at my table.

We struck up a conversation. Her daughter is expecting a baby next April. I pitched her the book.

She bought a copy.

More to come…

 

Why aren’t people buying this book?: Three lessons learned about book promotion

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So I’ve written a great book.

I’m selling at events where I can easily reach my primary audience–mothers.

So why are only 2% of people who attend these events actually buying this book?

It’s not because the book sucks. I’m getting glowing reviews from strangers on NetGalley–people who have no vested interest in giving me good reviews.

It’s not because I haven’t defined my audience.

Is it because I’m still an unknown writer?

What’s the deal?

I’ve thought about this a lot–especially since my last event totally bombed, at least compared to my expectations of what would actually happen. I hesitated to plop down the pricey booth fee for this past week’s baby and kid expo. Their listed booth price was $495.

Say what?!?

On the other hand, I thought, maybe that meant there would be a lot of people there. In fact, in my communication with the organizers, I learned that about 400-500 people attended this event last time.

Hm, I thought. Nice, but I can’t afford that.

I told them that I might be interested after I’m better established.

Okay, $250 then!, the lead organizer replied.

Hold on, I thought. They think I’m trying to negotiate the price. I wasn’t trying to negotiate at all, so I wrote back to them, in no uncertain terms, that I couldn’t afford this price, but maybe next year.

Okay, $150! But I can’t go lower than that!, the lead organizer wrote.

Holy cow, I mused. I bargained her down to $150 without even intending to negotiate. (I’m sure there are all kinds of implications here for other women who are seeking out ways to negotiate more effectively.)

So I thought that this was a good deal. I would be selling at an event where a lot of mothers would be present, and because it was called an “expo,” people would be coming in with the intention of finding (and buying!) new products. And, hey, maybe the booth prices was so high because I could expect to make some money back to help offset the cost of the booth.

Right?

Bah-ha-ha.

***

I noticed something was wrong by around 3:45. I hadn’t sold one book. First, there weren’t a lot of people there. From 3:00 to 4:00, there was a slow trickle of people. Perhaps 50 people in a room with about 20 or 25 tables. Traffic peaked around 4:00 with about 70 people in the room.

I looked around the room to see what other people were selling. In fact, people didn’t really seem to be selling much at all.

There was another local photographer who was displaying her work and talking about her services. One woman was promoting her swimming classes. An insurance agent was giving out quotes and talking about different policies. Across from me was a chiropractor (who maybe was looking for new clients?). Next to me were three representatives for It Works!, a wellness company that offers vitamins, “superfoods” in the form of powdered drinks, and wraps that shrink and tighten fat cells. There was also an Usborne Books representative and someone selling a product that promised to be a “metabolic booster.” The only other person selling something they had created was a woman selling die-cut quilts and crocheted items.

As I looked around the room, I kept thinking about that listed booth price: $495. Really? No one was turning that much of a profit here. Had everyone bargained for a lower booth price? Most of the tables looked like informational booths, not vendor booths.

And you know what?

The attendees treated them as such.

I started realizing that everyone was queuing up in three places–at the photo-taking station (free pictures, courtesy of a local professional photographer) or at either of the two baby formula company tables (free formula). After getting their free picture, women would load up their strollers with freebies and high-tail it out of there. Several mothers glanced at my table for about half a second–just long enough to see my huge poster–before they barreled out of the conference center.

I can’t be angry at the attendees. They came to this event with the expectation that they would get free stuff. I came with the expectation that–I don’t know–people would be in the mood to buy. But hey, the free formula and baby pictures set the tone. And as one of the few vendors that was actually selling products, I was outnumbered.

So maybe that’s one reason that so many people lingered inquisitively at my stack of books. Maybe they were wondering if I was just going to hand them over for free.

Lesson # 1: Don’t sell at events where people are attending just to get free stuff. I’m not slick enough at sales to convert the “I’m here for the freebies” mentality to the “I’m here to buy” mentality.

***

But I realized something else at this expo.

My pitches were not working.

Was it the content of my pitches?

  • For pregnant women: “This is a better What to Expect because it talks about more than the physical changes. It talks about the emotional stuff that no one likes to talk about.”
  • For women with children in tow: “This is a new pregnancy memoir that explores the transformation that women make when they become mothers.”
  • Everyone else: “This is a new book that I wrote that takes the reader from pregnancy to the end of the first year postpartum.”

So, so many times, these women would smile meekly and nod and say:

  • “Oh, that sounds nice.”
  • “Hm, okay.”

Or they would explain why they didn’t need it:

  • “Oh, I already had my baby.”
  • “This is my second, so…”
  • “I’m done having children.”
  • “Would have been nice a few years ago!”

And then they would quickly move on.

***

There is the thin line between advocating for my book and being an annoying salesperson (which I am sooo not.) If someone doesn’t look interested in starting a conversation, I am not inclined to chase them down. And yet, I find myself caught in this constant mental battle about whether or not I should engage with someone who is walking by my table.

Voice # 1: Be confident! Fight your introverted nature! Beat it with a stick! Take a risk! Engage!

Voice # 2: She just wants to be left alone. That couple doesn’t look interested in buying anything. She’s just being polite. Give her an out so she can save face. 

(Not to mention Voice # 3: No one cares about your book. No one reads anymore. What a waste of money this was. You should really stop doing these events. They’re just driving you further into the red.) 

But then I also wonder if some of the people that I pitched to were even listening. First, they looked at my table. Then, my poster. Then, they would look back at the stack of books, as if trying to figure out what I was all about. I don’t think they could fully process what I was saying to them while they using visuals to make sense of the scene.

So as more and more people walked away, I decided to try something new–I would pitch my book as a gift.

“This is a great baby shower gift for first-time moms.”

“Oh?” an older woman said. Her eyebrows arched. She picked a copy up and started to flip through it. “What a neat idea… Wait, did you write this?”

“Yes.”

Eyebrows arched higher.

“Very neat.”

“Do you know anyone who’s a first-time mom?”

“Yeah, I do… This would be great for her.”

“I’ll even sign it for you for free.”

I closed that sale.

I tried this same gift pitch on others and I started to notice that more people were responding to it. Oh, a gift? What a great idea! 

And then it struck me: I hadn’t clearly defined my primary buyers.

For a number of reasons, mothers were not seeing this book as something they wanted to spend money on. Maybe it’s because mothers are more likely to buy for others and less likely to buy for themselves. It’s the I’ll-use-my-money-on-something-else syndrome.

Or maybe new mothers look at my book and think, “There’s nothing in that book that I don’t already know.”

Or maybe pregnant mothers are thinking, “Oh great. Someone else giving me advice.”

But perhaps the inner dialogue is different for someone who is buying the book for someone else.

Maybe they think, “I don’t want to be the one to tell her how hard it’s going to be, but maybe this book can.”

Maybe they think, “Oh, something for the mom!”

Maybe they think “She’ll like something to read while she’s stuck in the house.”

This is what I find fascinating–that my intended audience won’t reach out publicly to get this book. Maybe it’s easier for a new mother to receive this book as a gift from someone else, rather than as a purchase for herself. When it’s a gift, she doesn’t lose any face in admitting that–once again–this whole process of becoming a mother gives birth to so many unanswerable questions. Maybe the best way to get this book into the hands of new mothers is to do it indirectly–by having someone else give it to them.

Lesson # 2: Know your buyers. They are not always the same as your audience.

***

My last realization concerns packaging.

Yes, packaging.

While I was standing next to my table, waiting for people to approach, my mother (who was keeping me company at this event) flipped through the book and said, “You know, if you put a nice ribbon around this, maybe with a gift tag, I bet more people would buy it.”

I laughed, but she looked serious.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah. People eat that stuff up.”

I immediately thought of a friend who said that I should package the book as a ready-to-give gift.

“Maybe drop a bag of tea in there. Some chocolate. Put it all in clear gift bag, tie it with a ribbon. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just something that makes people think about giving it away.”

Oh my God, they’re right. I need to play the pretty package game.

This is my blind side.

You know how a lot of people assume that women know how to decorate and wrap gifts and create gift baskets? I am not one of those women. At all. If I could wrap everything in aluminum foil without appearing trashy, I would. (No scissors or tape needed!) In this regard, I am totally masculine. My husband wraps the Christmas gifts. He also hangs the pictures on the walls, picks out paint colors, and chooses furniture and fixtures. He insists that I am involved in the process, but I inevitably shrug every time and say, “Looks good to me.”

So maybe you can understand why I didn’t even consider the packaging. Wasn’t this book cover enough to catch their attention?

Book-Cover-Becoming-Mother-Kindle

For my primary audience, this cover might be enough. But my readers aren’t always my buyers.

And my buyers need to see this as a gift.

I brainstormed some ideas with some friends about what types of little add-ons would pair nicely with this book. So far, we’ve decided on a bag of tea, a piece of chocolate, a pouch of ready-to-mix cocoa, and a bag of microwaveable popcorn–all things that you need to “curl up with a good book.”

Lesson # 3: Package the book to appeal to the buyer.

So will this work?

My next event is the National Holiday Gift Show at Hara Arena on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Over a three-day period, do you know how many people went to this event last year?

13,000.

So, I guess we’ll find out.

Book Tour Stop # 2: LLLatch On and Breastfeeding Celebration

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Last Sunday after I came home after pitching my book to 200 strangers at a baby fair (where I wasn’t allowed to sell books because it was an “educational event”), I got a message from a friend who suggested that I might want to look into being a vendor at the La Leche League’s Latch On and Breastfeeding Celebration.

She was kind enough to acknowledge that this might not be my cup of tea–since (as you’ll find out in the book) breastfeeding damn-near killed me–but, hey, there would be a lot of moms there. And it was only $15 for the space to set up the table.

But enough time has passed since those desperate days when I spent far too much mental energy rationalizing why I formula fed my baby.

So I signed up.

I enjoyed this event more than last week’s baby fair for a few reasons.

  1. I was allowed to sell.
  2. The stream of people was more laid back and I could spend more time talking with potential readers (which allowed me to better tailor how I pitched the book to them).
  3. I got a chance to walk around and speak with other vendors.

I sold a handful of copies, but about a dozen people took information with them. A couple of doulas who wanted books to recommend to their clients. A couple of people who wanted to buy it later for a possible baby shower gift. And a few who preferred to read on a Kindle, but didn’t want to forget the title.

I talked to a mother who still managed to show interest in the book while balancing a baby and trying to visually track where her second child was. She mentioned that she belongs to a book club in her church and that this might be interesting for them. She passed me some money for her copy and said she would pick it up on her way out. She did. And as she walked away, she was already flipping through it–still balancing her baby, still visually tracking her other child.

That’s skill.

Another woman glanced over the book as I pitched it to her and she interrupted me to say, “Is this about postpartum?”

“You mean postpartum depression?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s what I meant.”

“No, I didn’t have postpartum depression.”

“Oh, so–”

“It’s a reflective memoir about–”

“I just thought maybe you went through something, or worked through something hard, or something like that.”

In my head, I guffawed loudly.

“Well,” I managed to pivot, “Becoming a mom for the first time is going through something hard. It’s a complete identity–”

“Oh yeah, I mean, I have a nine-year-old so, I know.” She started to turn away at this point, distracted by something else. Then she turned back for a moment. “Thanks.” And then she was gone.

The thing that’s hard about these events is that while other people are selling lotion, books, soap, and handmade crafts–I’m basically selling my soul.

I’m getting better at allowing disinterest to not sink in too deeply. I tell myself that not everyone likes reading.

That maybe she’s not interested because she has three kids already.

That maybe this first-time mom with the 1-week-old baby doesn’t need a cheerleader in her life. Maybe she has enough support. Maybe that’s why she’s not jumping at the chance to buy this book.

But it’s hard.

Today, as my mom and I packed up our table and chairs, I focused on the positive.

Four books sold.

Yes, that’s all.

But the book is now in four more people’s hands than it was before the day started.

Onward we go.

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