Friday, August 7, 2015

Being a Stage Mom for Your Book Baby

Photo by Bonnie Burton, courtesy of the Star Wars photostream on Flickr

The term ‘stage mom’ provokes an instant, visceral reaction in most of us. We immediately conjure up images of pushy parents, barging into agent’s offices or haranguing a director for more screen or stage time, or else we picture painfully young girls dressed in puffy dresses with make-up. It’s not necessarily a pretty sight.

But I have to say, from my years in theater, there is a good side to stage mom-ery. Those are the moms who get up early every day, make sure their child has a nourishing breakfast, drives them to classes and lessons and auditions, and supports them every step of the way in their dream of greatness.

As writers—yep, you guessed it—we need to be stage moms for our book babies. We’re the ones who brought them into the world, after all. We’re the ones who have to get them looking their best, make sure they’re ready to go out there in the world, and we’re the ones who have to be their biggest cheerleaders once they face the public.

But just like traditional stage moms, there’s a right way to go about supporting your baby and a wrong way. These days, whether you’re self-published or traditionally published or something in between, a lot of the onus for promotion of books falls on our shoulders. The budgets for big media blitzes paid for by the publisher are gone, so we’re the ones who have to get that book baby up in the morning and make sure it shines.

Think of promotion as helping your child become the best little ballerina or sports star that it can be. The right way to do that is to know your industry, to research what audition opportunities—I mean, promotional vehicles are right for your story. Yeah, sure, we all know that BookBub is the gold standard for promotional sites, just like Hollywood and Broadway are the pinnacle of aspiring young actors, but it’s important to look for regional productions—or smaller promo sites, like The Fussy Librarian, Robin Reads, or The Midlist—on your way to the big time. The important thing is knowing how to best use your energy to support that book baby in the most effective way.

But like that initial image we all have of a stage mom, there is a wrong way to go about promoting your books. Think about all of the things that we find most obnoxious about stage moms. They’re pushy, they get in people’s faces, they have a way higher opinion of their child than that child warrants. All of these things correlate with wrong ways to promote a book.

There is a fine line between being proactive and being pushy. Pushy is emailing all of your friends and family and telling them to buy your book. Proactive is maintaining a mailing list newsletter of people who have subscribed to receive notice when you have a new book out. Pushy is spamming Facebook or Twitter with Buy My Book messages every five minutes in every thread and message board you can find. Proactive is seeking out appropriate forums to post those messages and posting them once—ONCE—or, yes, paying for a boost. Pushy is attacking anyone who leaves you a bad review. Proactive is learning from criticism and applying the lessons learned to the next book.

All of these are things that we know or should know as writers, but it’s amazing how quickly we forget when it’s our baby out there in the world. If you find yourself trying to promote your latest and wondering if you’re too much of a book stage mom, imagine how you would feel and how you would react if you were presenting your child in the same way. At the end of the day, our books really are our babies, and should be treated accordingly.

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.


  1. You are absolutely correct. The responsibility doesn't stop with the birthing. You have to raise them! :)

    1. At least with books (as opposed to kids), once you have a large number of them, you can group them together and promote the entire group instead of the individuals. ;)

  2. I have definitely met my share of pushy authors and learned a thing or two about how I don't want to be.

    Great blog!

    1. Oh yeah! Sometimes you learn much more from the people who are doing it wrong than from those who do it right!

  3. Having just completed Hailey's Chance, I'm groping at best ways to promote it. Promotion takes up as much time as writing.


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