How do you launch your first book as an independent publisher with a limited budget, no paid staff, and no previous publishing experience? We launched ours–The Adventures of Timmy and Samson™ Goodbye and Hello–on a Friday night in November at McDonald’s in Orlando, Florida, where we live and work. The event was “standing room only” and a wonderful experience. Families and children were introduced to our book as they colored, played games, and listened to live music performed by my coauthor (and husband) Tim and our four-year-old son Luc.
The week prior to the book launch, we had an interview with the Orlando Business Journal, which published an article featuring the cover of the book and photographs of the illustrator and us. In the article, the owner of 19 area McDonald’s was quoted as saying that he would be purchasing the book for his employees for Christmas. Our publicist scheduled this interview, which then inspired the McDonald’s public relations firm to send out press releases about our book.
How did this all happen? The entire McDonald’s launch stemmed from amazing sequential networking and from simply having the confidence to ask, which Tim had learned about at PMA University in 2001 and 2002.
Hobnobbing as a Starting Point
Each fall, the Orlando Chamber of Commerce has a political HobNob networking event. In 2002, a friend of ours who has done publicity went and met the Vice President of MarketIiyqfrom McDonald’s/Oerther Foods. Then our friend e-mailed Tim contact information for the VP.
Tim replied, “McDonald’s? Do you really think they would want us to launch our book with them?”
“Do you have the confidence to ask?” our friend answered.
Tim called the VP of Marketing and left a very specific voice mail. “This is Tim DeTellis with Muscatello Publishing. We have a children’s book coming out mid-November and would like to consider having our book launch event at your two-story McDonald’s on Friday, November 22nd in the evening.” The VP returned Tim’s phone call with a “Yes, we are interested,” and asked us to e-mail a proposal. We e-mailed her a specific plan.
All About the Entertainment
What we wanted was to build an event around our book, an event where children and their parents would have fun, be inspired, and leave as fans of Timmy and Samson. The success of the launch came from turning the book release into an event instead of just a book-signing. It’s all about story and entertainment. We had Timmy and Samson activity sheets for coloring, counting the hidden birds, and helping Samson through a maze. We incorporated live music, including the theme song for the book written by Tim and Luc, and a reading of the book by the authors. And we gave every child a toy based on Mr. Green Frog, the character who follows Timmy and Samson during their adventure.
The event started with a door prize and stickers, then coloring, a reading of the book, and music. Finally we autographed books and shook hands.
What’s totally amazing is that no one had viewed the book prior to the night of the launch. We had received 100 copies on the Wednesday prior, in time to deliver 10 to the McDonald’s public relations firm for additional publicity efforts. Our final shipment arrived two hours before the event. All the interviews and marketing had relied on the cover and the story, and the entire McDonald’s team had accepted all our plans on the basis of them and our passion.
Materials That Mattered
One of our best moves was hiring a publicist early, and another was producing collateral materials quickly, including posters, postcards, flyers, magnets, coloring sheets, stickers, and the Mr. Green Frog door prize. McDonald’s agreed to insert 10,000 of the postcard announcements into Happy Meals and Mighty Kid Meals and to display the posters featuring the book cover and event details at all the stores. And the fact that Ronald McDonald was on all our materials boosted our credibility along with our sales.
There are other developments in addition to the solid ongoing relationship with Oerther Foods (owner of the 19 McDonald’s in Orlando). We are also receiving requests for visits to several Central Florida YMCA locations and public schools. In addition, there’s an interview scheduled with the Orlando Sentinel newspaper too, and we just appeared on a local television station. Plus we are in the middle of negotiations for a licensing deal with Central Florida’s largest timeshare company.
What PMA University taught us was to go to where your audience is–sell direct. We knew that we needed to present the book both to children and to their parents. We also knew that McDonald’s would attract our target audience of young families. We are not experts, but learners, and we’re happy to share what we have learned from this launch. We hope we will continue to be creative and effective in our publishing efforts. And yes, Tim will be attending PMA 2003 because there’s still more to learn and much networking to enjoy.
Danika DeTellis is a coauthor of the children’s book, “Goodbye and Hello,” published by Muscatello Publishing. You can reach Danika and her husband/writing partner Tim at
info@MuscatelloPublishing.com and 407/888-3060.
The Message in Our E-Mail Materials
“We love to see you smile.” A message from McDonald’s about the “Goodbye and Hello” book: At McDonald’s, we love to see you smile; however, we also know that at times in life, smiles are not so easy to find. One of those times is when children need to say goodbye. Oerther Foods and McDonald’s have invited the authors and illustrator of the new book “Goodbye and Hello” from The Adventures of Timmy and Samson to share their story that teaches the lesson that you have to say goodbye to say hello again. This special book published by Little Paw, the children’s imprint of Muscatello Publishing, offers parents a unique opportunity to teach their kids about the meaning of goodbye. At the end of this book, children of all ages will smile, even when they have to say goodbye.