Book Marketing Now: Lisa Rogers
Lisa Rogers, librarian and author of DISCOVER HER ART: WOMEN ARTISTS AN THEIR MASTERPIECES, shares insights on marketing non-fiction kidlit, pandemic book marketing, and embracing your inner marketer.
Welcome back to Book Marketing Now, a monthly feature of Books, Marketing, & More where I share interviews with writers about their marketing and publishing journey as they share the inside scoop on releasing books into the current market!
You can read past interviews and insights here!
“The conversational tone will make readers feel as if they’re in a women-only, more diverse ‘Intro to Art History’ class.… A must for art history curriculum and to diversify biography shelves.” —School Library Journal
Lisa Rogers knows kids books — before she began writing them herself, she read, curated, and shared them with children in her role as an elementary school librarian! Her debut non-fiction book, 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow” released to starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and was a Junior Library Guild selection. Her second non-fiction book, Discover Her Art: Women Artists and Their Masterpieces, releases March 1st and the praise is already rolling in.
Lisa was kind enough to share her insights into publishing non-fiction for young people, the benefits of virtual marketing, and embracing your inner marketer.
How did you initially market your book to your publisher and how has that strategy changed now that you’re marketing to readers?
The pitch to publishers was about showcasing women artists who’ve been underrepresented in books for kids. Most people can’t name five women artists.
I’ll put you on the spot: Can you?
No worries, though. Even those who spend a lot of time at museums have a hard time naming women artists, because most collections, and most art history texts, include a disproportionate amount of art by men.
Now that the book is coming out, it’s all about, Hey! Let’s talk about these cool artists who were super famous and talented and made amazing art! And let’s learn about how they made their paintings!
Did you know there were dolls made to look like the artist Rosa Bonheur? Some of the dolls are dressed in pants. To be able to draw animals correctly, Bonheur needed to study their anatomy—and be unobtrusive in the male-dominated world of horse trading and stockyards. She had to get police permission so she could wear pants!
What is something that’s surprised you about book marketing a non-fiction book?
Both my debut, 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and the Red Wheelbarrow and Discover Her Art are nonfiction, and in deciding how to present this new book, I realized that they both tell stories about important artistic moments.
Discover Her Art tells multiple stories—who had access to a life in art; how art changed over time; and the story of each woman’s way of coming to art and the highs and lows of their careers. All of these stories are fascinating, with so many takeaways. I just wish I could have met these women!
Their stories are ones that I think will capture readers, whether or not they practice art themselves. You could imagine peeking over Berthe Morisot’s shoulder at the first meeting of the Impressionists, watching Amelia Peláez plan her huge mural for the Habana Hilton, or celebrating Alma Thomas’ painting being displayed in the White House.
Our initial proposal pitched a dozen artists. As we researched, it quickly grew to 24 because 12 artists didn’t feel like enough to tell the story of women in art. We’ve included artists and painters from Europe, the US, Cuba, India, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and China who were all celebrated in their time and are being “rediscovered” for a more general audience.
Who do you see as the audience for your book? How do you look forward to reaching them?
Art teachers, artists, and people who are curious about how women lived and worked through centuries all are part of my audience. So I’m posting cool stories about women artists to share the love.
This book is pitched at the top range of my usual audience—though 16 Words is used in middle schools for teaching poetry—and I think that’s awesome because anyone can dip into this book, wherever they like, and come out learning something new.
The timing is great, because museums have been increasing representation and recognition of women artists. Just this year there have been retrospectives of the work of Alma Thomas and Joan Mitchell, and one on Artemisia Gentileschi and other Italian woman artists. Thomas, Mitchell, and Gentileschi all are featured in this book. Their paintings are amazing and their lives are fascinating! Museum shops will be a great venue for Discover Her Art, and I’m excited about that.
You’ve worked with a range of publishers! What has it been like marketing with smaller presses versus big ones?
All of my publishers had extensive marketing questionnaires that sought my input on possible sales venues, press contacts, blurbers, and more.
For Discover Her Art, Chicago Review Press has taken an active role in booking events, which is most appreciated! They've made postcards for swag, set-up and handled a Goodreads giveaway, asked for input on particular bookstores for events, and, as the pub date nears, have shared a detailed timeline of their multiple efforts, including pitching to media outlets and follow-up. I just learned from Wellesley Books that Chicago Review Press drop shipped my books, which were delayed because of supply chain issues, to be sure that they got to the store in time for my March 5 event—and they actually got there last week!
For my other books, Penguin Random House kept track of my events and helped support those; for example, connecting me with an independent bookstore to bring books to sell at an off-site talk, and giving me a signing slot at a conference. Albert Whitman also kept track of events, did a YouTube read-aloud of my book, designed a sticker for swag, retweeted my posts, and more. Each publisher has sought reviews and let me know about them as soon as possible. Each has been responsive and supportive. Each time I’ve learned a little bit more about this process!
What marketing effort seems to have driven the most interest Discover Her Art so far?
My publisher offered 10 copies of Discover Her Art via a Goodreads giveaway, and last I checked, 3000 people signed up! So I’m hoping that results in some nice reviews and social media posts, and of course, purchases!
How has the pandemic affected your marketing approach?
My debut, 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow”, came out in September 2019 and I scheduled a dozen in-person events in Massachusetts and New Jersey, my home state and the home of Williams and the wheelbarrow’s owner, Thaddeus Marshall.
We sold more than 100 books at my Wellesley Books launch, which was packed—standing room only! I developed conference presentations and traveled to Baltimore for NCTE and to Philadelphia for ALA. It was glorious to be present at the awards and cheer in person! Pre-pandemic was fabulous.
Then came March 12th. Many of my events were cancelled.
Just over two weeks later, my second book, Hound Won’t Go, came out. Its launch was Wellesley Books’ first virtual event—they were awesome at switching it up from in-person—and it went really well. About 100 people tuned in, including some of my students and my mom, who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to come. Virtual gave me so many new opportunities! I teamed up with other authors to do a big event through The Writing Barn, presented on panels, and was really happy with how I could connect with readers, librarians, and other authors from across the country.
Now that everyone’s practiced at virtual, that will help grow my audience. The first event for Discover Her Art is virtual. It’s March 1st at 7 pm via the Portland bookstore Print. I think we’re ready to get back in person too, so I hope that inspires lots of local readers to come out to launch Discover Her Art with me! Wellesley Books is hosting my first in-person event on March 5th at 11 am!
What communities or networks have helped you in your marketing efforts and how?
I’m pairing up with author friends, like Nancy Churnin, whose picture book, Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring, is really lovely. Laura Wheeler Waring is one of our 24 artists, so it’s going to be fun to collaborate.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out when it comes to marketing themselves?
As difficult as it is to create a publication-worthy manuscript, to sign with an agent who’ll champion one’s work, and to land a publishing contract, many writers find marketing one of the most uncomfortable parts of the process.
There’s so much to do—setting up a website, developing a social media presence, building relationships with bookstores—the list is long. Writer friends like Josh Funk and Victoria J. Coe guided and encouraged me as I was navigating this new world. And I won a consult with Allison which helped enormously! I highly recommend booking one!
For writers, what I think is important and grounding to remember is that you are the main conduit through which people will find out about your book, and really, who could be better?
Think about how wonderful it is to talk about a project that you’ve put your heart into for years, to share with readers in person or virtually what you absolutely love about what you’ve achieved, and to learn from those readers what they love, too. Connecting with readers is more than worth the effort!
Finally, what tea has helped you get through the marketing process?
I’ve been loving Harney & Son’s Paris Tea—its scent alone is evocative of beauty and calm. I purchased a bulk package from Upton Tea Imports for a teacake recipe that Dev Petty shared on Twitter (for Earl Grey, which I adore, but this Paris tea is special!) I love to bake, and focusing on the specific tasks of measuring and combining ingredients helps me sort out my creative thoughts. Besides, the teacake is divine!
To order Discover Her Art:
Signed Copies at Wellesley Books | Chicago Review Press | Bookshop.org
Lisa Rogers is an award-winning author who became inspired to write for children during her career as an elementary school librarian. DISCOVER HER ART: WOMEN ARTISTS AND THEIR MASTERPIECES, is out March 1 from Chicago Review Press.
Lisa’s debut, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW,” illustrated by Chuck Groenink (Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House, 2019), received two starred reviews and won the Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe award. HOUND WON’T GO, illustrated by Meg Ishihara (Albert Whitman, 2020), is a 2021 Massachusetts Must-Read book. Her poems are included in FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN (Writers’ Loft Press, 2020) and IF THIS PUDDLE COULD TALK (Candlewick, 2024).
Lisa lives outside Boston with her family and intrepid hound and is a four-time runner of the Boston Marathon.
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Happy reading & writing!
Writer & Marketing Coach
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Allison Pottern Hoch has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and as a writing/marketing coach for authors. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea.