AUTHOR INTERVIEW | Meet the incredible Melanie Dimmitt, supremely talented writer, all-round lovely person and author of the phenomenal book Special: Antidotes To The Obsessions That Come With A Child’s Disability (follow Melanie here: @the_special_book and find the book here).
Here, she shares all on nailing the marketing and PR for your book once you've written your manuscript and landed a publisher...
How involved were you in the process of designing the cover of your book?
Super involved. Both because I wanted to be, and also because I went with a small publisher, they were really open to me being involved and drawing on my contacts. They were great.
With the cover, they had ideas about it and I said no. I had really strong ideas. I had Special branded, so I had a logo and a colour scheme created and that’s all translated across to the cover. We ended up going with a friend of mine to design it, because the person who they had got to design it, who I had begged them to use, just couldn’t meet the brief. So at the last minute I got my friend to knock together three designs, and they loved one of those and that ended up pretty much being the cover as it is now. So that was again a process where they were super patient with me and very forgiving. We got there in the end and everyone was really happy with the cover.
Take us behind the scenes of the marketing and PR for your book?
With PR and marketing, I was super involved. I pulled in Claire Belbeck, who I’d worked with at Collective Hub, and she helped organise a schedule for bulk sales, which I didn’t know anything about, but you can kind of go to organisations who might want to sell lots of copies of your book – for example, early intervention places for disability, and offer them a discounted rate if they’re going to buy hundreds of copies of books. So she helped me sort out what that would look like.
With PR, they hired a PR company who work with books, so they got me a few things, but so much of it was just me emailing out to contacts I have, or just magazines that I knew would be a good fit. I also hired a contact to do PR and she got a couple of things too.
I must say though, it has way more impact when it comes from you. It’s so much work, but I know from being on the other side of it, as a journalist I delete almost every press release that comes into my inbox, but if it’s the founder or the author themselves, it’s a completely different story. And I’ve definitely found that most of the leads have come from me reaching out personally.
Any tips for getting great PR for your book?
I put together my own little media kit. I had my brother take photos, and I got another friend from the magazine to quickly edit those for me, so I had good hi res photos, which is hugely important. And not just two or three, you need loads, because magazines don’t want to run the same image that’s been in some other magazine. So I was super lucky I had my brother to do that.
I also got my brother to shoot a really short trailer, because video content is really good to have, so just a really quick shot of me and Ro and Odie and Arlo walking and just a voiceover of me just saying what Special is, and having the logo up there. Having it branded has been a huge help, being able to put the logo around it.
And collaborating with brands - basically every brand I ever wrote a story for in Collective Hub magazine, I reached out and told them about it and asked if they wanted to donate to the goodie bags. So we got Barre Body and Frank Bod, Amy Molloy donated discount vouchers for her course, Franjos Kitchen donated some cookies, also Blacklist Studios, they did a collab with me where we made beautiful little notebooks that you can use as a journal. So I just really pulled in all my contacts, and I found that most people who I told were so keen to support it.
It was a truckload of work, just sending it out to everyone involved, but I made a point of doing it with beautiful pink postage bags, wrapped it in beautiful pink tissue paper. I got some little stickers with the logo on them to stick on, and I got thank you cards with the logo to write handwritten notes. And I sent out these really special packages with the hope that people would share them on social media, which they have. One of the mums I interviewed, who has like 20,000 followers, shared a picture today and literally, I have got 50 new followers and she only shared it 4 hours ago. I knew that that would get the book out there if I included these people and if I sent them something really beautiful, the hope was that they’d share it and it seems to be working.
How important was getting Special branded?
I’d definitely say brand it. I think a lot of people say you have to have a brand first, and you get all the followers and then you bring out the book, but I had zero followers when I started. I branded it first and it’s just made it so much easier going forward. Chucking a logo on all of my correspondence and having the colour scheme, it’s just made everything in the marketing appear so much easier. It costs a lot of money, but it’s really helped me.
What else has helped to get your book out into the hands of your target audience?
I’ve organised a lot of events. So I did three launches, and I did author talks at early intervention centres, really getting in with my target audience. The publisher wanted me to do library talks, but I thought, the chances of a parent of a child with disability coming along to that, versus doing them in the intervention centres, it’s obviously going to be much better to do it in therapy centres.
The therapy centres have been super keen to help promote and offer Special to their communities, because they’re constantly just trying to figure out how to best communicate with parents, especially at the start [following diagnosis], parents are just all over the place. They flocked to this because it’s like, 'Wow, here is a nice-looking resource that’s a bit different to everything else in the sector,’ so that’s worked out really well. And that’s where the only money I’m going to make out of this is!
I get like $2 a book if it’s sold the normal way, but I can buy the books at half price, so for like $16.50, and sell them at RRP, which is $32.99, and get that difference back, so it’s a difference of making either $2 or $16.50 on a book.
If I really wanted to, I could make my own website and sell all the books myself, but I cannot do any more than I’m already doing! But I can totally see how that might be something some authors want to do. Right now I just kind of want to leave it up to Simon + Schuster, who distribute for Ventura, and they’ve got this, so I’m just kind of hoping this gets out there enough without me having to become a bookseller myself! Certainly if you’re self-publishing, that’s what you’d need to do.