Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

SARA DOBIE is the Public Relations Coordinator for Sylvan Dell Publishing. She has been featured on the ForeWord Publishing Insider blog,, and If you’re an author without a website, she will find you and throw tomatoes. Rotten ones. Say hello at, or check out all the Sylvan Dell Publishing titles at

I’ve had the privilege of working with Sara while promoting my latest book, Blackberry Banquet. Sara is a dynamo with enough energy to light up any metropolitan city (who says we’re having an energy crisis with Sara around?). I knew she would have some terrific advice on book promotion for us!

What are the three most important things (general or specific) an author and/or illustrator should focus on to promote his/her book?
(Disclaimer: I feel like the multitude of answers to this oh-so-important question varies from day to day. So today? My answers are as follows.)

1. Know the World Wide Web.
This is a monster of a task, I know. There are millions of websites and blogs out there. How do you navigate? Well, you could start by having a website/blog of your OWN. Sounds obvious, right? Then, how come so many authors DON’T? Tell people about your website. Point interested booksellers, librarians, and strangers you meet on the street to your website…well, maybe not that last one…but you get the point!

So you have your website. Now, do your homework. Find out which sites you should be following. Who knows their stuff? Who should you be reading for valuable advice? Where should you be leaving comments that lots of people see? And when you leave those comments, is there a LINK TO YOUR WEBSITE by your comment so that people know where to find you?

This process builds into a rapport. Now, you can see if the people who know their stuff want to review your book. Ask them. Most will say yes. Then, there will be a review of your book on their high-traffic website. High-traffic website equates to book sales equates to you can stop eating Ramen noodles like an unemployed college kid.

2. Know your local media.
How are people going to know you published a book if no one tells them? You, as an individual, can only knock on so many doors. Standing on corners screaming your ISBN doesn’t do much, either. However, how about a feature story in your city newspaper? How about a TV spot on the five o’clock news? That’s the way to spread the word, and your publicist—if you’re lucky enough to have a publicist—can’t do it all. Your publicist can’t walk into the newsroom and start shaking hands for every client in every city with every book, etc. However, you can do this for yourself. As soon as you sign that publishing contract, get ready to make friendly. Go in and meet the story assignment editors and program directors. And once you have review copies of your opus, be sure to hand-deliver them to these same contacts! The media is your FRIEND. Say it with me: “THE MEDIA IS MY FRIEND.”

3. Know your niche.
If you spent a year researching and writing your book, then you should know what it’s about, right? If you know what it’s about, you should know your target audience, right? If you know your target audience, they should know about your book, right? RIGHT? If they don’t, you don’t know your niche. A niche is a targeted, little place in the big book world where your book belongs. Your book lives in that niche, and it should sell to that niche market. In other words, let’s say you wrote a book about herons. Who should you be sending it to? How about Audubon? What about wetlands conservation organizations? Did you know that the official city bird of Seattle is the HERON? Well, you should, if you just wrote a book about them! No, I’m not obsessed with herons. I know this stuff because I just launched a book about herons. I know this stuff because I saw the niche, and so should you, when your book comes along.

What are the most common mistakes that an author and/or illustrator can make in regards to promoting his/her book?
I was going to make a list of no-no’s, but when I looked at it, the list boiled down to one thing—a lack of pride in your product. Your book is your baby. And I’m not talking about the ugly baby in Seinfeld. I’m talking about a beautiful, well-behaved baby that chews with its mouth shut and knows the alphabet at two weeks old. Think about it…

Would you hide your baby at home? No. You would run out and show it to the world. The same goes for your book. You need to schedule events. You should have signings, school visits, library visits, workshops, etc. You should be out there meeting your fans with a smile—the proud parent of a newborn masterpiece. Never hide at home.

Would you leave your baby in the car on a hot day? NO! You would take it with you when you left the house or went into the grocery store. You would take that newborn EVERYWHERE! Never forget that you are an author. Always have copies of your book in your car. Always have business cards with an image of your book and your website address. Never forget your baby.

Like I said, a lack of pride in your product is a problem. (Whoa. Too many P’s…) Have pride in your masterpiece. Have pride in your CREATION. Have pride in you. It’s a package deal, and having pride in yourself and your product will turn you into a promoting machine.

What’s your favorite children’s joke?
Q: What has four wheels, is yellow, and lies on its back?

A: A dead school bus

Thanks, Sara!

(Note: The book featured to the right is one of Sylvan Dell’s Spring 2009 releases, One Wolf Howls by Scotti Cohn, illustrated by Susan Detwiler. To learn more about this title, click HERE.)

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