by Rebecca Grose/SoCal Public Relations (SoCalPR.net)
When I first started working with Peggy Tierney and Tanglewood Publishing in 2004, I had no idea that it would turn into such a long and rewarding relationship that has lasted for well over a decade.
Looking back, one of my fondest memories is from Peggy’s Author Retreat, held in July 2011 in Terre Haute, Indiana, at the Tanglewood office. Authors came from near and far – Audrey Penn (The Kissing Hand series, Blackbeard series)/North Carolina, Ginger Churchill (Wild Rose’s Weaving)/Utah, Katie McKy (It All Began With a Bean, Wolf Camp)/Wisconsin, Ashlee Fletcher (My Dog, My Cat)/Southern California, Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban (Two Moon Princess)/Pennsylvania, and Mike Mullin (Ashfall series)/Indianapolis.
Peggy was kind enough to invite me to join the group and over that long weekend, we held brainstorming sessions, exchanged ideas, and conducted trainings. More importantly, everyone came together as a team. Peggy’s planning was perfect–she brought in all the right people, organized a flexible schedule, and even thought to include a day trip to a nearby state park to give everyone a little break.
When Peggy purchased the cottage she planned to use for the Tanglewood office, she described it to me on the phone, but seeing it in person was inspiring. It’s tucked away in a wooded area, surrounded by beautiful nature and a sense of calm. And although it wasn’t large in size, it felt grand in purpose and rich with ideas.
Day 1 – An Education
On the first day of the retreat, Peggy focused on sharing key information with everyone, including sales and marketing plans for the upcoming season, as well as several training sessions.
Authors & Social Media
One session that stands out was Mike Mullin’s informative workshop about the most beneficial ways for authors to use social media, especially when they have a new book releasing. Following his presentation, everyone agreed that they were inspired by what they learned from Mike’s workshop and planned to act on his advice right away.
- connect with fans, teachers/librarians, bookstore personnel, media to build a strong following on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media
- stay active on these platforms (posting/commenting regularly) a few months before and after your release date
- create/maintain a useful, interesting website (hire someone, if needed)
- join/participate on book-related sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing, or others
How to Captivate and Keep Your Audience
Katie McKy, who was doing a lot of school visits at that time, shared what she had learned from her many experiences. The other authors took copious notes about how to achieve a successful school visit.
- command their attention, be enthusiastic, share information with humor, use examples, and sometimes it’s helpful to take on the tough ones (disrupters) directly
- Stay in touch with the teachers/librarians at the schools you visit, let them know when you have new releases/new programs to present
I also gave a publicity presentation to help the authors with simple, useful ideas for ways they could learn how to better promote themselves and their work on their own, which I always encourage authors to do.
- start your own database or mailing list of contacts where you can send updates about you and your books
- join industry organizations (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators aka SCBWI) and local writers groups to network and learn from others
- reach out to local media re possible features or reviews; consider organizing a Book Launch Party with a local bookseller for your next release, inviting friends and family to celebrate/buy books, while building a connection with the store
Day 2 – A Warm Experience
On day two, we carpooled over to Turkey Run State Park, about 40 miles away. While everyone else went hiking in the park for several hours, Audrey Penn and I hung out together at the lodge, where I witnessed Audrey’s special gift with children.
There was a little girl who was crying and very upset; Audrey went over, quietly sat down next to her and began reading aloud from one of the books in the kids’ area. She was so gentle and calm with the child, within a few minutes, the girl stopped crying. Later, Audrey surprised me with a small gift – a smooth, flat stone with the word “Confidence” etched into it. It sits on my desk today, so whenever I need a little boost, I hold that stone in my hand for a few moments and remember that special day with Audrey.
On our last evening, Peggy and her husband prepared a delicious dinner for us in their home. Together, we shared a wonderful time with her family while enjoying great food, good conversation and laughter, all with a strong sense of connection.
If Peggy ever decides to have another Tanglewood Author Retreat, I hope I’ll be invited again, as it was one of the best, most memorable experiences of my life!