Book Marketing Now: Table for 7 Press
Writer/publishers PHOEBE SINCLAIR, ERIN DIONNE, MEGAN MULLIN, GARY CRESPO, & WENDY MCDONALD share lessons and advice from forming their independent publishing collective, TABLE FOR 7 PRESS
Welcome back to Book Marketing Now, a monthly feature of Books, Marketing, & More featuring interviews with writers on their marketing and publishing journey as they release their books into the current market. Other past interviews and insights here!
There are many paths to publishing, but whether you’re on Team Traditional or Team Self-Publish (or somewhere in between), the members of Table for 7 Press’s publishing collective would like to remind you that publishing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This writing group took a look at their aspirations and skills and decided they had everything they needed to publish themselves. Now Table for 7 Press is four books deep into their new releases and shows no sign of stopping.
Table for 7’s writers and publishers Phoebe Sinclair, Erin Dionne, Megan Mullin, Gary Crespo, and Wendy McDonald answered my questions about publishing and marketing as a collective, virtual marketing, the many lessons they’ve learned as they’ve take their books from pages to print.
What inspired you to form an independent press? Tell us a bit more about Table for 7 and your collective publishing model.
Phoebe Sinclair: It was in the early days of the pandemic. I remember sitting in the living area of my tiny Jamaica Plain apartment, describing over Zoom how my understanding of what’s satisfying about writing has changed over the years. Instead of focusing on conventional publishing, I wanted to turn my attention towards interacting with an audience, no matter how small. I described to my fellow writers how inspired I was by indie publishers like Iron Circus, Black Ocean; DIY efforts grown into major successes, like Microcosm Publishing; and immersive / subversive genre-spaces like fan fiction and zines.
Erin Dionne: It then occurred to me that—looking at the talent and skill we’d honed for years—that we had all the elements we needed to tackle publishing our projects ourselves.
Wendy McDonald: Erin brought up the idea of a collective that evening as our online critique session wound down. We’d all been feeling the creative drain of the early pandemic and were looking for direction and inspiration–I know I was! I’d been querying my young-adult novel, The Willow, since well before the pandemic began, and was getting ready to close out my remaining no-response submissions.
Megan Mullin: Erin was our first member to truly experience traditional publishing, and that experience led her to believe that not only could we do it ourselves—but we could model it in such a way that would work with our strengths and fulfill our goals, harnessing the skills we have as a collective to create and share our work with the wider world. It gave us the freedom to create our own deadlines, set our own schedule, and work together to tackle the various steps in the process.
PS: We came away from that conversation with a shared sense of creative agency and urgency. Why wait to be so-called discovered or deemed worthy by conventional publishing? After so many years together, we were rich with strong relationships and represented a wide range of professional skills. Deciding to give things a try, we took an accounting of our skills and writing projects, set up a Discord server to stay organized, and we were on our way!
Gary Crespo: We determined that as a group we had experience in art, design, editing, marketing, and proofreading. Forming Table for 7 allowed us to pool our skills.
WM: As a collective, we are each responsible for our own work, though we support each other in our areas of strength. In addition, we support each other on social media and other types of marketing, boosting each other’s posts and events on our own accounts, as well as a shared ownership of and responsibility for the Table for 7 social media accounts.
Who do you see as the audience for your books (or Table for 7 as a whole) and how are you reaching them?
MM: I think Table for 7’s audience will evolve and grow as we continue to publish each other’s works. But at present, I would say our audience is readers/writers of YA. We’ve been reaching out through our various social media pages—Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
WM: As the author of young adult novels, my audience is bifurcated: adult women who read YA fiction, and teenagers. At this early stage I’m finding social media campaigns helpful in reaching that older audience. In addition, I’m researching opportunities to guest on podcasts with topics relevant to events in The Willow, like mental health, grief, and gun safety.
Reaching my teen readers is more difficult, since most teens use social media differently than adults. So, I’m working on a newsletter geared toward librarians and teachers who serve my YA audience. I’m also researching adding reels to my social media approach.
ED: In my traditional career, I’ve published picture books and middle grade/tween novels, with a forthcoming chapter book series due out in 2023. With those books, I want my books to reach kids via their adult gatekeepers, so I target schools, librarians, and teachers through school visits, conferences, and social media.
My Table for 7 projects are different. Bad Choices Make Good Stories is marketed towards other writers, so I reach them via my teaching at the Writers’ Loft, SCBWI conventions, Highlights, and occasional editorial clients. My forthcoming mystery series, Beach Hill Cozy Mysteries (written as Mina Allan), is marketed towards adult cozy mystery readers, so that’s a whole new audience I’m learning for this venture.
How does being part of Table for 7 influence your approach to writing?
ED: In some ways it’s the same—I am showing up with my work to get support and feedback from this awesome group of people every two weeks. But it’s also a lot more strategic. I’m thinking about the projects we do as individuals and groups; how my indie projects fit in with my traditional publishing career and writing schedule; and how we can continue to grow and push ourselves. It’s good stuff.
MM: During the pandemic, my writing took a backseat as my family and I adapted to virtual school and working from home. The stress of that timeline certainly didn’t help either. But the creation of Table for 7 was a great motivator for me; it made me realize that even if I wasn’t actively writing myself, I could still be a participant in the creation of new, valuable work.
What is the most significant lesson you’ve learned so far about publishing or marketing from forming Table for 7?
PS: Running a publishing collective is a lot of work, but far from impossible! I was raised to believe that options for finding an audience for one’s writing included either waiting forever for a publisher to notice you, working with small presses with no budget to speak of, or hawking vanity-press printed books to anyone who looked at you twice! Meanwhile, while I was (mistakenly) believing indie publishing was too big a reach, our writer’s group was compiling skills from our various day jobs. At that fateful zoom meeting, we looked at one another and said: wait, we can REALLY do this. Many authors had already come before and were enjoying successes, why not us?
MM: Same. For me, it’s the feeling that there are many avenues to getting your work in front of eyes that want to read it. Traditional publishing is nice, but I would rather have a handful of readers enjoy my work than none.
ED: I’ve learned everything takes longer than you anticipate and that there’s a LOT of legwork that goes into reaching audiences and building a readership. I’ve also learned that I really love this whole process and experience in ways I never expected. Going through all of this with friends and trusted partners makes it even better.
GC: That marketing is a full-time job and difficult when your life is busy! After trying to publish several novels through traditional means, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try to self-publish some of my work as part of the Table for 7 experiment. I’m finding I wasn’t born with the sales/marketing gene and it’s not easy to promote my work. So I’m on a steep learning curve when it comes to book marketing.
WM: And yet marketing doesn’t need to be a horse-race. As an indie publishing author, I don’t have to worry about losing the next book deal because I didn’t have a certain number of pre-orders, or sell a certain number of copies right out of the gate. I can work on building my audience as I go. Even if that happens slowly, as long as I’m working on it a little each week, I’ll see progress. That reduces stress, at least for me.
What marketing efforts have driven the most interest in your books?
ED: For my adult mystery series (which launched 11/15!) I’ve gotten a lot of interest via Bookfunnel’s newsletter promotion groups. Within a matter of 3 months, Mina Allan’s newsletter email list had over 500 subscribers! This is from offering a free short story and cross-promoting with other writers. It’s been pretty incredible.
WM: Before The Willow was published, I wrote a prequel short story and offered it to people who subscribed to my newsletter–that generated a lot of buzz, some of which has turned into actual book sales. In addition, each of the social media pushes I’ve done has resulted in a brief spike in sales. What that tells me is that I’m reaching at least some of my audience.
Both newsletters and social media, though, can be time-consuming. It’s important to maintain engagement in-between sales-related posts. I’m currently brainstorming topics that resonate with me, so I can batch-schedule posts every few weeks.
How have you handled the shift to virtual marketing due to the pandemic?
MM: Interestingly, since we began our venture during the pandemic, it gave us the unique “advantage” of starting out entirely virtual. And in all honesty, virtual marketing—from email newsletters to social media pages and our website—doesn’t differ much from the kind of marketing utilized by the travel company I work for. We are living in an increasingly more virtual world, and the pandemic forced us to navigate this digital space even more effectively.
WM: All I know is virtual marketing. What I’ve done with The Willow has been a little catch-as-catch can, due to pandemic-related considerations and a lot of extended family obligations. But one benefit of the indie-publishing route is that I can do as little or as much marketing as I’m able during this difficult period.
What are some resources you’ve found inspiring in your publishing journey?
PS: Early in my adult life, I distanced myself from a version of hustle culture that I was raised with as part of working-class Black community. I endeavored to avoid overwork; never had any desire to run my own business. Once we caught the indie publishing collective bug, though, I discovered a new appreciation for Wu-Tang Clan, for punk rock and zines, and for Boston’s rich, indie music scene (which I’ve gotten a glimpse of via my partner’s band, Double Star). Clearly, these groups know what they’re doing.
I take inspiration from C. Spike Trotman, who runs Iron Circus; the publishing-advice books by Joel Biel of Microcosm Press (especially A People’s Guide to Publishing: Build a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business). Underground and DIY-art scenes have an excellent sense of what works: getting your work in people’s hands and finding success without breaking the bank.
ED: I’m a huge podcast listener, and Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast is a must-listen for me each week. Listening to her is what made me think we could actually do this. I also enjoy Todd Henry’s Accidental Creative podcast, and the Alli (Alliance of independent authors) podcast. Plus traditional-based publishing ones like my agent Jennifer Laughran’s Literaticast and Grace Lin/Alvina Ling’s Book Friends Forever. Keeping up with industry changes is super important to me.
What advice would you give to writers interested in pursuing indie publishing or creating their own press?
PS: If you’re trying to go it alone: don’t. Find your people. No matter what your press or effort looks like, it will serve you to journey alongside people who can share in your failures and triumphs.
MM: Exactly! Assemble a great team. Contrary to popular belief, writing does not need to be a solo endeavor. A group of fellow writers and/or readers are invaluable, especially in the pursuit of bringing a story from an idea to a book to a sale.
WM: Take the time to celebrate your achievements. We’ve made it a point to recognize our successes, no matter how small. When we call attention to those moments, and take the time to enjoy them, they come more easily to mind when we need a pick-me-up.
ED: Connect with others. Whether you do it as a collective or solo, having other people in your orbit to work with, commiserate with, and learn with, makes publishing a lot more fun. And if it’s something you’re curious about, try it! We at Table for 7 are also happy to answer questions about our journey.
Finally, any recommendations for teas that have gotten you through the marketing process?
PS: When I’m taking my turn creating content for Table for 7’s social media, I’m often in The Writer’s Room of Boston on State Street. There’s a bag of lapsang souchong in the common kitchen. I don’t know who it belongs to, but I’ve been drinking the heck out of it, sweetened with two brown sugar cubes. Concentration perfection.
GC: Iced green tea with honey is my go-to!
WM: While we were on vacation in P-town this June, I picked up a tin of New England Breakfast from The Captain’s Daughter and I’m loving it with milk or light cream as I work on my social media posts or correspondence in the morning. I especially love it while I’m actually writing!
MM: I’m an Irish tea fan, Barry’s in particular, steeped for three minutes exactly with whole milk and one sugar.
ED: Same! Give me Barry’s Irish tea for my black tea, or I’m also a sucker for Bigelow’s Vanilla Caramel black tea with honey. For decaf, it’s Trader Joe’s Candy Cane green tea all the way. But really, truly, Dunkin Donuts’ medium iced tea is my favorite. I don’t put sugar in my tea–hot gets honey, iced is straight black.
To order Table for 7 Press titles:, check out their latest releases!
Bad Choices Make Good Stories: Conversations About Writing by Erin Dionne
How to Ruin Your Life in 140 Characters or Less by G. J. Crespo
The Willow by Wendy M. McDonald
A Perp and a Parade: A Beach Hill Cozy Mystery by Mina Allan (aka, Erin Dionne)
Table for 7 is an independent publishing collective—by writers, for writers.
We are also a Boston-area writers’ critique group which has been working together for nearly 25 years. We realized how perfectly our combined skill-set enabled us to circumvent the big publishing houses and put our voices out into the world. We believe in supportive, clear communication about the work that we create, and feedback that is instructive and honest.
You can follow Table for 7 Press online on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or visit their website at tablefor7press.com to sign up for their newsletter for new release info and free extras!
Support Table for 7 Press and other indie authors by following, reposting, sharing, reviewing, requesting, and/or reading their books (and buying when you can)!
Happy reading & writing!
Writer & Marketing Coach
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Allison Pottern Hoch has happily made books her life’s work. She is currently 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.