Tales from a Trunk Show

Tom and I motivating each other all night long.

Tom and I motivating each other all night long.

Wow.  I don't think I've ever been so happy to be sitting at my desk looking out at a cold and rainy afternoon. I just finished two whirlwind days of bookselling at a wonderful trunk show event and being able to sit down is a welcome relief.  This was my first trunk show and I learned a lot.  Here are my top ten take-aways from the event:

1.  Getting out into the world is a wonderful thing.  As a writer I spend a lot of time alone in this very chair that I am currently loving.  I think about my readers - how old they are, what they like to do, what news stories they read, what they dream about - but I don't always get to meet them.  It was really fun to talk to new people about my books.  And it was even more fun to meet total strangers who have not only read my books, but loved them so much that they were actually excited to meet me.  I'm sure J.K. Rowling is used to strangers complimenting her work, but I am not.  It was not so long ago that I could track every single book sale back to my network of mom friends.  There were days where I could even track sales based on who I had spoken to on the playground!  The fact that my sales have now grown well beyond that stage is thrilling.

2.  Packaging is important.  I love my covers and I think they look great as a group.  But the other thing that shoppers really responded to is my gift wrapping.  People loved the old-fashioned look of the brown paper wrapped in pink raffia ribbon.  I sold out of my book bundles entirely and am hoping that my next shipment of star necklaces arrives soon because I've got several more of these trunk shows coming up.  As soon as the necklaces arrive, book bundles will be back in stock online as well.  Sorry!

3.  Table presentation matters.  I was surrounded by some awesome vendors selling some gorgeous products.  The tables that looked the best had lots of vertical elements of staggered heights, whereas my books were mostly laid out flat.  Time to invest is some book displays. 

4. I love my Square reader.  So easy to use.  

5.  Wear flats!  The really comfortable kind.  After much debate and consultation with supportive friends, I have decided to embrace the bootie trend (although I will always hate the name).  Last night I wore a great pair of high-heeled booties and at about hour three of standing up I wanted to throw them out the window.  This morning I changed into my regular uniform of skinny jeans and flats.  Much, much happier.

6.  Get to know the other vendors.  They will talk up your products and vice-versa.  Plus everyone has really interesting stories about what inspired their products and tips about which shows are the most successful.  On my right was this lovely lady who makes such fun mother/daughter necklaces and on my left was this amazing publisher who produces gorgeous books about New England.  Both make great holiday gifts.  

7.  Wine is a wonderful thing.  This show had two sessions: night and morning.  Night sales were a blast as there were groups women coming through with their friends and an open bar upstairs.  An excellent combo for bookselling.

8.  Inventory is tough to estimate.  It's really expensive to over-order and really frustrating to sell out.  Not sure there's a solution for that.

9.  Should you come home late at night after hours of selling, do not even look in the direction of your children's Halloween candy.  You will regret it the next morning.

10.  I love my books.  I'm so glad I took this leap.  I hope it's just the beginning.  Simple as that.  

Size Matters

Star Sisters on the shelves at Edgartown Books!

Star Sisters on the shelves at Edgartown Books!

This weekend we went to Martha's Vineyard which, besides being my favorite place in the world, is also home to one of my favorite bookstores - Edgartown Books.  It's an incredible bookstore, with a large front porch where you can sit, rock, and watch the island life pass by.  And to top it all off, Edgartown Books carries Star Sisters.  It's hard for me to explain how exciting it is to see my work in a bookstore that I have loved for years.  A place where I spent many rainy afternoons with young children, dreaming of being one of those authors on the shelves, dreaming of having that kind of creative life.    

I publish independently, which brings many challenges.  But one big challenge is that stores like Barnes & Nobles will probably never carry my books (at least not with the way things currently stand).  When I decided to take the indy route, this worried me.  I was dreaming of big, huge, total Star Sisters world domination.  Then I stopped dreaming and started doing and everything changed for me.  

First, I learned that world wide domination was going to take a heck of a long time.  My books weren't going to land with a splash.  They were going to land with a teeny, tiny drop in a very big ocean.  And they were going to spread from there.  Second, I realized that there is no greater feeling than seeing my books on the shelves of local independent bookstores.  I love going into these stores and talking with the owners.  I love seeing my book spines (or sometimes forward facing covers) on the shelves.  I love the smell of the places, getting to know the people who work there, and bringing my girls along to browse the shelves and get recommendations.  

I've written this before and I'm sure I'll write it again: independent bookstores are the best.  If you're professional and have a good product, they will take the time to get to know you and your books.  They will invite you to special events and recommend your books to customers.  They will cheer for you when you get press and help you brainstorm strategies when you have a slow month.  They will make you feel like you belong in this industry even when you have days where you worry you never will.  Working with places like Edgartown Books, Wellesley Books, Newtonville Books, Winchester Bookends, Brookline Books and many more has been one of the highlights of this experience and one of the reasons why, even though I sell my books on Amazon, I will only buy my books from stores like these.     

And since we're on the topic of Martha's Vineyard and following dreams, I have to share the incredible home of Molly and Eric Glasgow, owners of the Grey Barn Farm.  This home was recently featured in Architectural Digest and it blew me away.  The short (and I'm going to guess very simplified) story is that the Glasgow's were working in high powered jobs in London when they decided to make a drastic change and move their family to Martha's Vineyard to open a dairy farm.  Several years and twenty-five cows later, just look at what they've built.  We drove by the property several times this weekend and I almost pulled my neck out straining to get a view of the place.  I'm pretty sure they open the farm to visitors during the summer and it is at the top of my list for next year.  In the meantime, I will visit these images whenever I need some inspiration to keep pushing on my making my own dreams come true.  (All images via Architectural Digest).  

The Barefoot Contessa and Me

Contributors Page from Family Circle Magazine Nov 2014

Contributors Page from Family Circle Magazine Nov 2014

For months I have been waiting for the November issue of Family Circle Magazine and on Saturday morning I finally spotted it on the stands.  My hands were shaking as I opened the magazine because this was no ordinary issue, this issue featured my home in a six page spread.  Six pages!  Family Circle!  That's huge!  There I was on the very first page standing in my kitchen kissing my sweet littlest babe.  There were my own paintings and my daughter's drawings on the walls.  There was my home all colorful, sparkly and styled up to the nines.  But you want to know the image that I'm most proud of?  The one I keep flipping back to?  The one I texted right away to one of my closest friends?  It's the contributors page, where my face is represented in cheerful cartooned glory right alongside Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself.  

The reason I love this page (beyond the fact that I think my cartoon hair looks much better than my real hair ever has) is because I have always considered Ina Garten a role model.  Most people know her story - she was working as a White House budget analyst when she saw an ad for a specialty food shop that was for sale in the Hamptons.  The very next day she went up to investigate, had a gut feeling that purchasing the store was what she was truly meant to do, and took a leap of faith.  Nine cookbooks and a Food Network show later, Ina Garten is a household name (at least in the households I hang out in where most of my friends have lots of little mouths to feed but still like to try and do some casual grown-up entertaining every once in a while).  How I would love to be able to sit down with Ina and ask for the details.  Did she really have no formal background in cooking?  Did she really just buy the store on a whim?  How the heck did she go from that beginning to where she is now?  Was it really all as sweet as cupcakes and apple pie?

Because what I'm learning as I try and promote my books is that it's very easy to romanticize the pursuit of a creative career.  It's easy to say with an Oprah-esque glow how wonderfully fulfilled you feel by doing work you love and then post your cartoon face in a national magazine on Instagram.  But the real truth (at least for me) is that every small victory comes as a result of so much work.  For example, the Family Circle photo shoot happened because I spend a lot of time reading design blogs and I began to think that my home could compare to some of the ones I saw being featured.  So I snapped some pics and emailed them to Style Me Pretty Living, a design blog that I'd long admired and knew liked to run home tours.  SMP Living loved my house, so my next step was to hire this awesome photographer to come over with a styling assistant and do a full day photo shoot of my house.  SMP Living put those images together and ran them here.  An editor at Family Circle saw the feature and asked if I'd be willing to let the magazine shoot my house for their home section.  Ummmm, yes!  Then came another full day photo shoot with the NYC based Family Circle crew, which included two magazine editors, a photographer and her assistant, and a stylist and his assistant.  Many days of rearranging furniture and stressing about my kids being exposed because of my desire to get publicity for my books later, the magazine hits the stands with a small but clear image of the cover of Star Sisters and the Best Seller running on the last page of the spread.  I consider this a well earned victory and a step in the right direction.  I hope it introduces some new people to Star Sisters.  I hope someday I get a chance to ask Ina if she built her business with these same kind of small steps.  I hope she says yes.

My book cover in a national magazine!!  Proud moment!

My book cover in a national magazine!!  Proud moment!

I'm going to try and get some high res images from the magazine shoot of my house to share.  But in the meantime, check out Ina Garten's amazing home as featured in House Beautiful.  This is one of the first homes I ever fell in love with and, years later, it's still at the very top of my list of all time favorite homes.  I love how it's simple but warm.  A combo of fabulous materials, a gorgeous setting, and a woman who clearly knows how to make a place feel like home.  What a lady.



In The Air

Misty Copeland via Elle Magazine

Misty Copeland via Elle Magazine

There's something in the air these days that I'm loving - a new kind of empowerment message aimed at young women and girls.  I'm seeing and hearing it in commercials, on Facebook, on the radio, and even at the toy store.  Take the following campaigns:

Always: Like A Girl

Pantene: Not Sorry

Under Armour: I Will What I Want

Goldie Box: Like a Princess

These campaigns are awesome!  (And all seem to draw inspiration from the groundbreaking "Dove: Real Beauty" campaign from a few years ago.)  Obviously these companies are not perfect, no monster corporation is.  Just like no mother is always the perfect example for own daughter.  I know I'm not.  I have my moments where I look in the mirror and sigh at the way my jeans are fitting, only to notice a tiny little face watching me with those big eyes that take in every little thing, that pick up on every little sigh.  All I'm saying is that I love the message.  I love that all the money, resources, and brain power that it takes to produce these kind of videos is being spent on helping girls recognize their own self-worth.  On helping them see the beauty and power within.  

It's really inspiring and it's made me a think a lot about what I put out into the world.  Because even if my voice is a small one (at least for now), more and more girls are reading my words every day.  They are taking in my thoughts and stories and, as much as I want my writing to entertain, I also want it to teach.  That's why every story I write centers around kindness.  That's why no matter where in the world Coco and Lucy go, they don't return home until they've left it a better place, until they've helped someone.  But now I want to take my message even farther.  I've got this idea turning in my head for a new spin-off series based on this awesome message that's floating in the air.  Now I've just got to get this idea down on paper.  That's the fun part.

In the meantime, I am SO proud of Star Sisters and the Best Seller, which is coming out on Monday!  It's inspired by J.K. Rowling, a brilliant woman who has been a huge source of inspiration to me.  The book centers around a little girl (K.J. Dowling) who wants to be a writer.  No one takes her seriously and she's feeling pretty down, until Coco and Lucy come to the rescue and convince her not to give up.  To never stop trying.  It's the perfect book for any girl with big dreams.  And the New York City setting is the icing on the cake.  Don't Coco and Lucy look like so happy on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

Ode to Instagram

One of my favorite Instagram moments - the first time I saw my books on the shelf!

One of my favorite Instagram moments - the first time I saw my books on the shelf!

Oh, Instagram.  I really, really love Instagram.  I was skeptical at first, thinking it was just another Facebook, but I've been totally won over by its filtering genius and network of creative, inspiring people.  And it's organizational structure makes my type-A heart sing!  All those tiny squares lined up in neat little rows.  Heaven!

Like most moms, I am drowning in digital pictures.  I cannot even hover my mouse near my iPhoto folders for years 2012 and 2013 without feeling physically ill.  I have gazillions of pictures that need to be sorted and placed into albums.  Cry me a river, I get it.  But I am not digitally inclined and every time I try to sort those babies into albums they just end up a total mess of poorly cropped and crowded images.  On top of that, I don't think the quality of Mac photo books are very good, so all that work ends up being a bust.  And don't even get me started on what happens when I try and export my photos to another online book printing source because I don't even understand the problem well enough to describe it.  (I can literally feel my husband rolling his eyes from his office miles and miles away, but I don't see him spending his free time making family photo albums!)

Enter Instagram.  The beauty of Instagram is that I can shoot pics of my family, edit them on the spot, add a caption to help me remember the moment, and up they go.  Then I delete all the shots from the event that don't make my Instagram feed.  I feel like I'm creating this beautiful log of our time together, without the hundreds of mediocre pics.  And it's all organized!  I can scroll through my feed at the end of the night and just marvel at the cuteness.

Now, the next part is even better.  I regularly upload my pics to Prinstagram, which doesn't even technically involve uploading because you just log on with your Instagram username and password and they somehow access the photos for you.  (Again, cue the eye rolls.  Whatever).  Through Prinstagram, I print both hard copies of my photos as well as books.  It literally takes 10 minutes - so user friendly!  I think the quality is great, although I have learned that some filters like Sierra look great on screen but a little too faded in print.  Prinstagram books even have the option of including dates and captions.  I display the hard copy prints all over my house.  I keep them in little boxes or put them in casual groupings like in my kitchen below (all the square images are Instagram).  I love the casual, old school polaroid feel.

That's how I handle my personal account.  Professionally, I think Instagram could be a great marketing tool.  I say could because I'm not quite there yet.  I haven't figured out how to visually create a presence for my books and, while I think I'm pretty darn good at taking pictures of my girls, shooting physical objects is a real skill best left to the professionals.  (Trust me, my house is going to be featured in an upcoming magazine spread and I got to see some of the best in business in action and it was incredible.  The care and time they took with every little detail gave me a whole new appreciation for the craft.  It was amazing to watch.)  But I do find it very helpful to follow bloggers, editors, and other creative entrepreneurs who I admire.  I like to study how they've built their brands and how they balance presenting their businesses with a personal side.  I also really like following other writers, as well as agents and other publishing industry types who I may want to approach someday (fingers crossed!).  

The following are some people who I think really do Instagram well:

Susan Petersen of Freshly Picked Mocassins.  With 233,000 followers this lady is awesome!  Such a great combo of professional, personal, and inspiring.  Blogged about how much I love her here.

Courtney and Emilie from Babycinno Kids.  I've loved their blog FOREVER, it is one of the first mom blogs I started reading and I still log on every single day.  Their pics are beautiful glimpses of family life.

Caitlin McGauley.  Uber talented water color artist and mom who I blogged about here.  She does a wonderful job of showcasing her work without appearing to "market" it.  And sprinkles in some cute babe pictures as well.  

Joy Cho from Oh Joy.  Again, does such a nice job of sharing glimpses of family life while still promoting her numerous and impressive creative endeavors.  

Mimi Thorisson.  Because the combo of food, puppies, and beautiful French children just can't be beat.  Plus, any writer who gets her book reviewed in Vogue is clearly doing something right.

Jodie Morel from Dannijo.  Inspiring images from the fashionista scene that never feel intimidating or posed.

Sarah Winchester.  An incredibly talented photographer who also happens to be incredibly kind and introduced me to the wonderful world of professional Instagram.  She was my first Star Sisters follower and I've been following her lead ever since.

One final note on Instagram - I think it's tricky to have a "public" family photo album and I think we're all still learning about how to navigate these things.  I'm very aware that my personal Instagram account (which is technically private, but I have a lot of followers) is not a "real" account of my life.  It's a beautiful photographic diary of the family that I love, just like the photo albums resting on the shelf in my parent's living room.  I capture the moments I want to treasure and remember forever.  I share them because I want my family who's far away to be able to see them and my friends whose own photos I love seeing to share in them with me, but mostly because I love them.  I want them for me.  As for the tougher moments of parenting, I'll just have to rely on my memory for those.  Some will be with me forever, while others will fade.  But at the same time, I always seem to lose sight that others are doing the same thing.  They're deliberately presenting themselves, preserving select memories.  I don't really have a point here, I just know that I'm curious to see how this all plays out.  I'm curious to see how our kids handle growing up with this public/private dichotomy.  I can't imagine how I would have handled it as a teenager.  But maybe they'll be wiser.  Maybe they'll catch on early that there's an image we preserve and share, and one we protect.  I hope so.