Promotion Road: On the Sales Trail with Jayne Bonilla

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IMG_8047_JayneHeadShot Over the next few weeks, Jayne Bonilla, author of Shirt for Dessert, will be blogging from time to time about her promotional efforts on behalf of her new book. Jayne is no stranger to the book promotion game, as she self-published her own children’s book, If Hurricanes Were Candy Canes, years ago and has sold nearly 15,000 copies to date. Because getting your book published is only part of the “game,” WEbook thought Jayne’s experiences would be of interest to current and would-be authors … Oh, and Jayne is a publisher’s dream, an unrelenting promoter, book signer, and overall mover and shaker in her Fort Lauderdale/Miami-area community...

Last Saturday, I woke up awash in energy, enthusiasm, and anticipation. Normally, I try to sleep in on Saturdays but not this week, not on the day I’d been dreaming about for almost 16 years. If everything went according to plan, hundreds of people would soon be gathered around me as I read to their children from Shirt for Dessert, my first published book. Then, better still, they’d all buy copies, which I’d happily sign.

It went exactly as planned. The event was at The Weston Town Center’s Main Street (a mall in my  Florida hometown) and about 150 people showed up. As the day progressed, I realized it was as much a coming-out party for Marley Barley, the main character in my book, as it was for me, the author. The symbolism was unmistakable. I’ve always believed in a simple set of mantras when it came to writing: never give up, follow your dreams, practice patience, and hone your craft. And now I was being rewarded, in real time.

For the kids, it was simply a laugh fest. For the parents, it was pretty much the same. But for the local Shirt for Dessert Cover_Finalsmall3 merchants, it was much more. The event grew out of a simple signing that I arranged at one of the stores  in the mall. Then the director of marketing for the entire Weston Town Center got involved, and I pounced.  She was lamenting about how business was slow, so I came up with the idea of cross-promoting the reading with other merchants in the mall. My plan was to use the book as a kind of golden ticket. Meaning: If you bought Shirt for Dessert, you’d get a complimentary slice of pizza at the pizza joint, a free cone at the ice cream shop, and discounts galore at a range of other participating businesses. Smart, right? And when I approached other businesses in the mall, almost all of them were happy to offer a small giveaway or discount coupon in the hopes of luring in customers. It worked beautifully. I sold nearly 100 books, and people ended up buying much more after collecting their freebies at the participating stories. The classic win-win.

The signing was scheduled to end at 4 p.m. Families continued to wander in hoping I would stay just another minute to read to their children and sign a book. At 6 p.m., I’d finally signed the last book of the day. And the great news? I get to do this all over again next week. More important, I learned how crucial it was to consider the needs of the peripheral businesses involved when trying to promote a book. I was the bait. My book lured the kids, but they came with parents—read: shoppers—and that’s why I got so much support from the mall. Because I was helping them. Yes, it was a lot of work, maybe more than some authors are willing to do. But, as I’m learning, the dream of getting published doesn't end when the book is printed.

--Jayne Bonilla

Want to pre-order Shirt for Dessert on Amazon? Click here.

Keep up with Jayne ... if you can. Follow her on Twitter.

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