Earlier this year, I worked with author Jessica Elefante on preparing for her book launch. Next week, her book is being released. As I write this, there is that anticipation where I am aware of all of the incredible work that Jess has done — for years and years — to build to this moment. And there is that reflection of the unknown… what will happen when the book is available to readers?!
Today I want to focus on a single aspect of her book launch plans.
Before I dive into that, I want to share two other moments that authors I have worked with are experiencing this week. I recently worked with author and illustrator Renée Kurilla, and she shared this image the other day:
That is her with Matthew McConaughey, holding their #1 New York Times bestselling book, Just Because. But that isn’t the only book that she released recently. Her book, It’s Fall!, came out recently, joining her growing list of 10 other published books!
Another author I’ve worked with had a huge week as well. This is the amazing Amanda Montell appearing on the Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain podcast. If you aren’t familiar with Emma, her podcast is huge, and she has an audience of more than 15 million fans. Amanda is on the right in this image:
Renée and Amanda have each worked so long to create these moments. Their dedication, collaborations, and so much else led here, and to where they each go next.
While the writers I’m focusing on today are having huge moments, I love working with all writers, including those just starting out, or those part way up the climb to where they hope to be. My days are spent with writers at all stages, from just figuring out their message, to trying to get their first subscriber, and so much more. I find incredible value pulling from one experience to assist another. I am in the trenches with writers and creators, and that means I am the luckiest person in the world.
Which brings us back to Jessica Elefante. To be honest, I have no idea what will happen with her book next week, next month, or in the next year. No one does. But I know that she is incredibly talented, has done so much to lead to this moment, and is going to make it fun and meaningful. Her book focuses on helping the reader experience “freedom from influence in a world where everyone wants something from you.” She is a big believer in analog offline experiences that are not mediated by a screen or big tech company. Which brings us to….
This arrived in the mail the other day. But no, there is not a small pizza inside of it. The blue seal begins to set the tone:
It reads: “You received a PACKAGE! Not an email, notification, instant message, snap chat, text message, tweet, or wall post. But a… hand packed, hand delivered PACKAGE! Snail mail is an unexpected party in a box with NO instant gratification included.”
Once I broke the seal and opened it, this is what I was presented with:
So many fun things! I want to note up front the important detail of needing to break the seal, and to unwrap the book from the ribbon. I love how it forces me to take an action to uncover the mysteries that await. Such a small detail, but critical to making a meaningful experience. It’s like walking through a threshold.
This is a promotional box that seems to have been sent out to a select group of people. Okay, let’s take a look at each item one by one.
We can start with the box itself, and Jess’s handwritten words on the inside: “Made Fresh!! With love. From Brooklyn. Xx Jess.” Again, she is underscoring the point of all of her work: the importance of connections between people that are not mediated by technology. This isn’t a pizza pie, but it was still prepared fresh for me. Her mentioning of place — where she lives in Brooklyn — and infusing it with caring and love, sets a tone for what this is. It’s not a bunch of junk purchased off of Amazon that has a tertiary connection to a theme of her book. Each of these items are custom and are meant to help infuse the reader with an experience that matters.
Okay, let’s start with… the book!
Throughout the entire book are these seemingly handwritten notes:
And I’ll be honest, this one totally tricked me! I thought this was actually her testing her pen in order to write the note to me:
Here is another “detail” that 100% supports how Jess does everything, and all that the book embodies: 12 pages of Acknowledgements!
And she was incredibly generous and kind in the inscription:
Okay, let’s dig into each of the other items in the box. First we have this adorable bookmark, whose thread reminds me of the friendship bracelets that we would make as kids. On the bookmark is the manifesto of the book and how to live:
Next up: the big round sticker! There isn’t any branding on this tying it back to her.
Next we have: the disco ball keychain! One side has her branding, and the other says this:
One thing that I hope is obvious from what she is sharing here is the sense of FUN she tries to infuse with everything. Much of what she is against is truly scary stuff, and it is invasive to our lives. And while she takes those things soooo seriously, her recommendation for a cure is all framed in giving yourself agency, creating meaningful moments, and having fun.
Here we have the patch! And in case you were wondering, Folk Rebellion is a brand she created years ago, and she has now infused that with the work of her book:
Okay, this is my favorite detail of the entire package. Did you notice how when I opened the box, everything was displayed perfectly? That was thought and effort on Jessica’s part (or someone on her team.) There are these little dabs of sticky goo holding everything in place:
So many writers bemoan having to share, they just want to write. But what about all the sticky goo that is required for a successful book launch — have you ever considered that?!
Okay, next up is a series of small zines:
This is amazing, the first one is instructions on how to make the very zine you are holding!
Look at how adorable and useful this is:
Next up are instructions on how to be a pen-pal! Here is the entire thing unfolded, but you would move through it like a small magazine:
Next up: a guide to protecting yourself from burnout:
Here are the insides:
Next up: a companion worksheet to go with that last zine!
She also included a personalized note, presented as we would have passed notes in class back in the 1980s! I remember there were special ways of folding them, which Jess has done expertly. My favorite detail here is the messy stray piece of loose leaf paper still hanging on for dear life:
When I flip it over, she makes that exact point:
I mean, are you noticing all of the details here? The total alignment to her book and what she is about. How she is thinking of everything, making it feel custom and personal. When you consider your own marketing and publicity efforts, avoid the cookie-cutter strategies. Where you are copying a copy of a copy of something that worked for someone five years ago.
Jess took a traditional idea — sending a promotional package — and infused it with generosity, and meaningful connections to her book. And it worked. Here I am writing about it. Here I am inspired by it. Here I am… a better person for having received this.
Here is the note (I’m sharing it because I didn’t feel it included anything super personal):
Do you see what she is doing there? A couple things: making it feel personal and generous to start. But then: making the ask. Asking me to help support her book. That is so difficult for most writers to do, and I think it is important for you to see that. This is work. It requires effort. Don’t just assume people will support you. Ask!
So much of the work I do centers on the concept of Human-Centered Marketing, and of seeing each individual reader. Jess is truly seeing each person who is a part of her life, and is making them feel special.
Will Jess’s book be a huge bestseller? I don’t know. Has it already been making people feel seen and heard through the manner by which Jess is sharing? Definitely.
Whenever I share a post like this — celebrating the success of a writer — I often hear from others that it has discouraged them. They may tell me that they didn’t get a book deal with Matthew McConaughey; they weren’t hand selected to be a guest on one of the biggest podcasts in the US; they didn’t sign with a publisher who would create a beautiful book for them; they don’t have a budget for adorable pizza box gifts, and even if they did, they wouldn’t have anyone to send them to.
If you are feeling this way, I don’t want you to feel discouraged. I share these stories because I know and have worked with Renée, Amanda, and Jessica. They started where we all start: with an idea, a dream, and that sinking feeling that maybe no one will care. Then, day by day, they got to work, connecting what they create and why to real people, one by one.
What I am trying to share here are three people in the midst of their careers, having fun, and finding new opportunities. Is it all roses and sunshine? Probably not. I’m often in conversations with writers — including successful writers — who are wrangling with issues that feel harrowing, as if their entire career hangs in the balance. And these writers face closed doors more often than you would think. Yet, they persist with their work because they are passionate and focused.
It is an honor to work with writers. And if you are a writer… you are awesome. Keep going! You are my favorite kind of person: someone who has a voice, and will use it. Thank you for being here with me.