Color Outside the Lines to Sell Your Book By Jacquie McTaggart

In 2001 I reluctantly retired from an incredibly rewarding and satisfying 42-year teaching career. I had loved everything (well, almost everything) about teaching, but I was 62 years old and I wanted to leave the profession while I was still effective and enjoying my community’s perception of me as a “master” teacher. Unwilling to retreat to my recliner and eat Oreo® cookies all day, I decided to embark on a totally new venture – writing.

Choosing a topic was a no-brainer. Like most authors, I would write about my passion. For me that was kids and school. I would examine programs and practices that are often criticized, share anecdotes, answer questions, reveal secrets, and examine recent educational legislation. (Actually I would criticize recent legislative actions regarding education, but examine sounds less harsh.) I would title my book, From the Teacher’s Desk.

Luckily for me, a writing consultant steered me toward He told me they had an impeccable reputation for honesty, helpfulness, and expediency. And he was right. As Richard and Angela gently led me through the maze of publishing, I began to plan my marketing strategy. I purchased books on the topic, scanned the Internet, asked questions, joined online discussion groups, and listened to the advice of others who had already published one or more POD books. When my book was released in late December of 2003, I was ready to sell that sucker!

Of course I utilized the traditional marketing methods of book signings and local speaking engagements. I had some short interviews (3-15 minutes) on a variety of radio and television programs, and I electronically sent press releases to every major newspaper in the country. I also sent a few releases to not-so-major publications. I shamelessly sought (and was granted) feature articles in alumnae magazines that represented colleges and universities where I had earned degrees. Some of these measures produced many sales, while others (radio and television interviews) did next to nothing in the money flow department. I wanted more.

Because my topic was education, I knew that teachers would be a lucrative market. They obviously weren’t going to seek me out (Jacquie Who?), so I would have to go to them. Once again I used the Internet. I contacted organizers of State Reading Conferences across the country, described my book, and asked if they would be interested in having me serve as a Keynote speaker for their next conference. (Of course a book signing was a part of the package.) When six states responded with invitations, I figured I had found my market base and would henceforth concentrate solely on that area. Then, I got the telephone call that changed everything.

Miraculously, the activity director from a metropolitan upscale retirement center (home to 1500 residents) had heard about my book and invited me to do a Book Talk and signing. I couldn’t imagine why that particular population would be interested in a book about education, but I reluctantly agreed to do it. After a considerable amount of hand wringing and head banging, I sent a promotional flier inviting their residents to come and hear my presentation titled, “We’re Never Too Old to Try Something New.”

Well, they came in droves and they bought a vanload of books! The word quickly spread through activity directors of similar homes across the state (Iowa), and I now have several more appearances booked. And to top that, new calls are coming in every day.

If there is a moral to this story (and I believe there is), it is to take your marketing plan beyond your topic. It’s okay to color outside the lines. It opens new doors, offers new friendships, and it brings in a fair piece of change. If you have trouble with marketing creatively, just start with upscale retirement centers. They will welcome you with open arms and open pocketbooks!

Jacquie McTaggart lives with her husband, Carroll, in Independence. She has two sons and eight grandkids. In 200l Jacquie retired as a first grade teacher from the Independence public school system. Her retirement was the culmination of a 42-year teaching career. For the past three years she has written a weekly column called “From the Teacher’s Desk” for two area newspapers. Many of her articles on education and parenting have been published by national magazines and on the Internet. Her book titled From the Teacher’s Desk was released by Booklocker in December, 2003.