Stephanie Moon: “Community ”

Community — Having a community is the difference between an author that sells some books and an author who sells a lot of books. Your community are your best cheerleaders and will be the first person to go out, purchase your book and tell everyone they know about your book. To break down building a community, it’s […]

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Community — Having a community is the difference between an author that sells some books and an author who sells a lot of books. Your community are your best cheerleaders and will be the first person to go out, purchase your book and tell everyone they know about your book. To break down building a community, it’s just about making friends and talking to people. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that!

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Moon.

Stephanie was one of those kids who read under the covers with a flashlight. Fast forward into her first job and every job since, Stephanie has worked in and around books. From leading campaigns for New York Times Bestsellers, securing partnerships with brands like the San Francisco Public Library and securing coverage in Oprah’s coveted Holiday Favorite Things list, Stephanie gives authors the confidence and strategy to sell more books thru her work at her company, Steph Moon Co.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

There isn’t so much just one story that shows why I got onto this career path, it is more a lot of little stories… As a kid, I was always reading — during breakfast, on long road trips, anywhere I went — I brought a book with me. Fast forward to my college years and I did a marketing internship with a now defunct tech company. The people were great, the product was cool but I just wasn’t that excited. I knew I couldn’t have a career in tech and was told by a mentor — what do you love? What gets you excited? What do you want to be working on in 10 years? And the answer was working with actual physical products. Then when I thought about some of my favorite things, I immediately thought of books. I was lucky enough to apply and get my first job at a subsidiary of one of the largest children’s book publishers in the world. And then I was hooked. I’ve stayed working in and around books ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

When I worked at a traditional publisher, we published a book by a very famous cat, Grumpy Cat. He was loved by both adults and kids alike because his face always looked well… grumpy. As part of book promotion, we had Grumpy Cat do an appearance at Book Expo America, the biggest trade publishing show in the US. We knew Grumpy Cat’s appearance would be big, but we literally had no idea how excited people would be. The event was a photo opportunity with Grumpy Cat. You couldn’t pet him or touch him… it was a photo only. To give you an idea of how excited people were, the event was scheduled for the afternoon and people started lining up by our booth the minute the doors opened for the show.

In all my years of going to tradeshows and working with authors, no one had as long of a line as Grumpy Cat. The event was slated to be for an hour, but it ended up going for almost two hours. The whole time Grumpy Cat was in our booth, I was literally standing guard and using my arm and frankly my body as a partition between Grumpy Cat and the crowds. The excitement was palpable and it felt so exciting to be part of a cultural phenomenon.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

I’m not a writer myself, but as an author and book marketer, I see the challenges that authors face as they are trying to get their book out into the world. I see authors spend years researching, writing and putting their book together. Then when it comes to marketing and promotion, they do very little. Part of this is because authors think their publisher has this handled. Your publisher will do a lot but there is also a lot that authors can do!

Over the years, I’ve seen a pattern. The most successful authors are the ones who have built a community around them. The community usually consists of fans, teachers, librarians, other authors and just anyone interested in their genre of writing. Authors who spend time creating real relationships and giving to their community are often the ones who feel comfortable promoting their book and thus do it frequently and successfully.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As a marketer working with authors at all different points in their journey, I once send a giant stack of 500 posters to a children’s book author/illustrator to sign. We were going to use these posters as part of a huge mailing to teachers and librarians. I double checked that the author who was also the illustrator had time to do this and thought nothing else of it till I got the signed posters back. After I opened the package, I wondered if the author send them back without signing or if he just thought it was too much work. Finally after very close, close inspection, I saw it. His signature was super tiny and small in pencil at the very bottom of the poster. Yikes! The teachers and librarians who received the poster usually hang up the poster as decoration for their space or as a prize for kids so the signed part of the part is usually much bigger and makes the poster feel extra special.

I had to call my very nice author and explain the purpose of the poster and resend the posters to him and have him re-sign each poster with a sharpie and make it super visible. It felt so embarrassing to have to tell him this and make him do double the work. After that, I always explained everything as clearly as I could and never assumed the author would know what to do.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Hands down, the most exciting projects I work on are the ones with authors and clients who are genuinely excited to learn about how they can execute their own book marketing and promotion. Authors who are truly interested and willing to do the work are the best authors to work with. It takes a bit of experimenting and practice to figure out what feels authentic for an author but once they do, it’s amazing to see him/her grow and blossom.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

As a voracious reader, the best books I read are the ones with unexpected stories. Getting to see behind the scenes of a different country, a different lifestyle or a business is what I love. Seeing how people live their everyday lives including the triumphs and struggles is so special. So many people only talk about the “high points” in their life and not all the time, energy and effort it took to get there. Seeing people work through the low points inspires me.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

The main lesson I wish authors knew was that writing a book is only half the battle of having a successful book. The other half is marketing and promotion. Researching and writing a book is undoubtedly hard work. But, I want you to think about it like this. Even if you have the best book out there in your category, does it matter if no one knows about it or can find it? The answer is no! People need to know about your book and one of the best ways for them to find out is for you to promote it.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

Clarity — Knowing who you wrote the book for and what they will get from the book is one of the biggest things that authors need to know. I see so many authors say — my book is for anyone who likes to cook, who likes to read or wants to improve themselves. NO it is not. You will not be successful at marketing your book to everyone. You have to know your ideal reader. Who they are. What they like to do. Why they are excited to read your book.

Commitment — Marketing your book is just as important as writing your book. The best way to describe successful marketing isn’t one big thing that’s done right. It’s a lot of little things done right that are working together. Little things add up. Creating systems and processes around your marketing will help make all these “little things” easier.

Consistency — These days, people talk a lot about going viral. What does going viral even mean? And why do people want to go viral? Without a lot of examination, going viral can mean that a ton of people see the video or picture or article you wrote. Ok. So… they see it but then what?

Do they start following you on social media? Do they look you up to see if you wrote a book? Do they hire you to consult on their business?

It used to take customers 7 instances of seeing a brand before they recognized it. Recently the number has reached 17. A consumer has to see you and your brand 17 times before they remember you. Think about that. Going viral can be “cool” but does it give you 17 exposures to the same customer? No. What does give you 17 exposures is your consistency in showing up. It can be showing up on social media, in-person events or on your blog. But you have to pick a place and show up… consistently.

Creativity — Going back to that stat above that someone needs to see you and your brand 17 times before remembering you. How is a consumer going to remember you from all the other content they consumed that day? Shrug. This is why it’s so important to be creative with your campaigns, your brand and your story. In order for people to remember you, you have to stand out in a crowd.

Community — Having a community is the difference between an author that sells some books and an author who sells a lot of books. Your community are your best cheerleaders and will be the first person to go out, purchase your book and tell everyone they know about your book. To break down building a community, it’s just about making friends and talking to people. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that!

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

Consistency. Writing, like any discipline, is just that. Discipline. Constantly writing and exploring new ideas is what helps writers create more material and also gain clarity in their own voice.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

Cookbooks. Hands down. There has been a shift in how cookbooks are produced and written. They used to just be a bunch of recipes, one after the other. But in the past couple of years, cookbooks have started to include more of the author’s story, background and inspiration. Reading about why a cookbook author started to cook or seeing into an author’s kitchen is a little like taking a look into someone’s purse. You never know what you’re going to find. It’s such a personal look at someone.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement would be around creating affordable or even free childcare and early childhood education for everyone. Childcare and early education aka daycare and preschool are so prohibitively expensive yet there has been so much research done to show that what kids learn and experience in the first five years of their life affects them for a lifetime. As a first time mom, I see how even small changes in my sons’ environment makes him ask questions or get curious about new topics. Childcare in big cities can be almost as much rent. So basically, parents are paying two rents for the first five years of their child’s life. Which both infuriates and appals me. This needs to change so that our kids can get a jump start in life.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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