New Voice: Shelley Coriell on Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Shelley Coriell is the first-time author of Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe
(Amulet, 2012). From the promotional copy:

Chloe Camden has a big heart and an even bigger collection of vintage shoes. 

Life is good…until her best friend turns the entire school against her and her counselor axes her junior independent study project. 

Forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass her Junior year, Chloe joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t always appreciate her unique style. 

Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. 

On and off the air, Chloe tackles love, loneliness, and painful life lessons as she gives her big heart to the radio station and the misfits who call it home.

Could you tell us the story of “the call” or “the email” when you found out that your book had sold? How did you react? How did you celebrate?

When I received “the call” from my agent in October of 2010 that Amulet Books/Abrams made an offer on my contemporary teen girl manuscript, Welcome Caller, This is Chloe, I was standing naked in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Of course I didn’t have my phone on me at the time — no pockets — so I didn’t get the news until much later that night.

That week I was going to acquisitions at multiple houses, but instead of waiting anxiously on word from my agent, I spent that particular day celebrating my youngest daughter’s thirteenth birthday.

Back story: when each of my daughters makes her grand entree into the teen years, I take her on a special mom-and-daughter spa day designed specifically for her.

For my youngest, a nature-loving dancer, we journeyed a few hours south to Tucson where we went to a nature retreat and day spa on the edge of Saguaro National Park West. We spent the morning doing yoga in a pueblo-style casita, walking along desert nature trails, and sunning ourselves on a pueblo rooftop where we talked about dance shoes and boys and books.

After lunch I went for a full-body massage while my daughter headed to the sauna then to a cozy hammock with her book (Alyson Noel‘s Evermore). When we switched about an hour and half later, my daughter hugged me and said she loved this place, this day, and me.

With my wonderfully content daughter getting her first massage, I lingered in the sauna and took a meandering walk through the meditative labyrinth. Then I headed to the outdoor shower, a wonderfully earthy place with a stone floor and walls made of sun-bleached saguaro skeleton ribs.

As I stood naked in the shower enjoying the fall breeze and gift of motherhood, my phone rang in the nearby casita. I considered dashing through the desert to answer, as I figured it was my agent with deal or no-deal news. Either way, I knew the message would take me out of this very special moment with my daughter.

No brainer. This day was about her, not me. I chose to remain naked and blessedly unaware of my grand entree into the New York publishing world.

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the
process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

When I started putting together my marketing plan more than a year before the May 2012 release of my YA debut — Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe — two principles guided me.

One: any promotions I do must be a good fit for my unique and limited resources of time, talent, and treasure.

Two: I will enjoy the process.

As a public relations specialist and non-profit executive for the past twenty years, I’ve learned to plan far in advance, be flexible, and ask for help. For example, when I learned the teen-aged cover model for my book and her family were incredibly enthusiastic about Chloe’s story, I invited her to join me at book signings across the country and with podcasts for my U.K. blog tour and Radio Chloe You Tube Channel.

I turned to published author friends for recommendations on everything from bookmark designers to what kind of pens to use to sign books.

On-line resources at SCBWI gave me great tips on how to put together a school visit, and members of my RWA loops talked me through setting up book signings.

I also unabashedly asked my publisher for help. The team at Amulet Books is book-savvy and crazy-creative, and they want to sell CHLOE just as much as me.

They set up the Chloe Hotline, a phone number my readers can call to get advice from “Chloe” (me), and when asked, they provided me with giveaway items for author presentations. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but publishing and promoting is a team effort.

In the simplest terms, a good promotions plan will help you sell books. But in my world, good promotions also elevate an author’s spirit and the industry.

Don’t you love reading tweets from authors who know how to have fun and engage readers on Twitter?

Don’t you come away on fire after hearing an author give a heartfelt talk that inspires and educates?

Promotions fueled by genuine enthusiasm and organic to you and your lifestyle work best.

From a practical standpoint, a good promotions plan will clearly identify your product (you and your book) and provide a detailed action plan with tasks of what you plan to do.

This action plan could also include assignments (who will do what), target dates, status notes, and budget considerations. I keep my promo plan on a simple Word doc. It’s about five pages, updated as needed, and organized into four categories: author information, book information, on-line promotions, and traditional promotions.

Your author information isn’t book specific. On a broad level, it identifies who you are and where you want to go with your career.

For the book info section, think of it as a one-page sales sheet you could hand to a bookseller.

The on-line and traditional promo sections detail specific tasks to grow sales and your career and are limited only by your time, budget, and creativity.

The four-part plan may include:

I. Author Information

  • Mission 
  • Vision 
  • Objectives 
  • Platform 
  • Bio (long and short) 
  • FAQ

II. Book Information

  • Title 
  • Name on Book 
  • Publisher 
  • ISBN 
  • Publishing Date 
  • Format/Specs 
  • One-paragraph synopsis 
  • One-liner 
  • Unique Selling Points 
  • Comps 
  • Target Audience 
  • Sales Channels

III. On-line Promotions

  • Author Website/Blog 
  • Group Websites/Blogs 
  • Social Networking Sites (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, PinInterest) 
  • On-line Reader Forums (General sites such as Goodreads and genre-specific sites such as Young Adult Book Central) 
  • Bookseller Author Pages (your publisher, Amazon, Barnes &Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound, etc.) 
  • Blog Tour 
  • Electronic Collateral (book trailers, animated banners, etc.) 
  • Skype 
  • Out-of-the-Box Promo (This is where I list things like the Chloe hotline) 
  • Joint promotions

IV. Traditional Promotions

  • Media Kit: bio, author photo, book Info 
  • Book Endorsements 
  • Book Reviews 
  • Press Releases (hometown newspaper, alumni magazines, professional journals, local radio and TV stations) 
  • Book Signings 
  • Author Presentations 
  • Book Fairs, Festivals & Trade Shows 
  • Street Teams 
  • Book Clubs 
  • Author Collateral (bookmarks, postcards, signed-by author stickers, SWAG, etc.) 
  • Publisher Collateral 
  • Direct Mail 
  • Out-of-the-Box Promo 
  • Joint Promotions

My final bit of promo advice to authors: don’t get too bogged down with promo that you don’t have time to write the next book or feed your writer’s heart and head with new experiences and people.

7 thoughts on “New Voice: Shelley Coriell on Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe

  1. Congratulations on your book, Shelley. And great advice on promotions. I love unique, book specific marketing ideas, and having a call-in number for your book is great. Does it take a lot of work fielding the calls or are the answers automatic?

  2. I must read your book! Congratulations. LOVE the story of where you were when Jill was trying to reach you. It's all about priorities, right?

    I've bookmarked this pages for later use. Thanks for the promo tips 🙂

  3. I love this story; it sounds like it was a memorable trip with your daughter. Congrats and I look forward to reading!

  4. Samantha, I'll see if I can get Shelley to pop in and answer your question.

    Priorities to be sure, Julie! And the tips are terrific.

    I love it, too, Heather! Happy reading!

    Carey, how great that you two have connected. Thanks for surfing by!

  5. Thanks, all, for chiming in! Samantha, the hotline is a little time intensive, especially after I do a school visit where I give out the phone number. I have to listen to all of the messages students left for "Chloe", but then I pick just a few to answer. Right now I'm in the middle of getting the hotline stuff moved to my author website, so I'll have new calls and answers up pretty soon. Hugs and happy writing and promoting!

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