How to do a book launch and not blush.

Today is a big day for Herald Press/MennoMedia and we are excited to get the word out to everyone as much as possible!

It is the official publication date for Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World by Shirley Hershey Showalter. Finally.

IMG_8821Along the way there was a live-streamed online unveiling of the cover design (by Merrill Miller), discussing the long process of evaluating and redoing covers as author, publisher, and marketing come to agreement.

Backing up even further, Shirley went through a huge project of reading 100 memoirs and reviewing most of them at her blog, Yes, 100 memoirs. Some of them great, some of them not quite as great, I’m sure, but she did it to learn all she could about the memoir writing process and what was out there, even producing a small free booklet on “How to write a memoir.”

She then kind of went into hibernation, if you can do that in Brooklyn, N.Y., while taking a year to be Granny Nanny to her first grandchild, Owen. Many of us followed that blog too (now closed). She spent parts of her days taking care of the newborn and helping him discover first his fingers, then his family, then the big beautiful world out there.

Back in her newly adopted home of Harrisonburg, Va. (after a number of years in Goshen as president of Goshen College) and other places, she labored and stewed and produced draft after draft of Blush which had numerous names (like most books do) along the way.

She started exchanging ideas and plans almost weekly on Google Hangout with marketing director Ben Penner. She’s become a social media guru, tweeting through seminars, giving thoughtful and genuine comments on blogs everywhere, game for any promotion suggestion.
IMG_3117Ervin Stutzman and Shirley Showalter discuss their books in progress at the Mennonite Convention in Phoenix in July, picking up many pre-orders.

A small production crew of Wayne Gehman and Jerilyn Schrock put together a heartfelt and beautiful book trailer video.

An official launch party at—where else—her home church, Lititz Mennonite, Pennsylvania, in her childhood home community, is set for Thursday night September 19. Shirley and her husband Stuart, mother, friends, family and probably some people she’s never met are enroute as I write this. Shirley will also be making stops and appearances in Ohio and Indiana: see the current schedule here.

Staff had fun shipping out all those pre-orders this past Monday, (or at least posing for it)

IMG_8721and enjoying a coffee break with the busy author-marketer-speaker-book signer.

IMG_8765Endorsements from the likes of Bill Moyers and Parker Palmer are here. And lovely reviews have started coming in, too: from blogger Marion Roach Smith (with a chapter excerpt) and Melanie Springer Mock, and Jo-Ann Greene of the Lancaster, Pa. papers.

GoodReads is giving away 20 books and the entries are adding up. (You can enter too, here, closing Sept. 22.)

Books such as this that have potential to reach a market far beyond the Mennonite church receive a little more marketing attention from the publisher than some others, but truth be told, Shirley has done so much (with the help of her marketing–savvy daughter, Kate) to personally get the word out using almost every available form of media today (many of them free, beyond the price of your Internet connection). Shirley has personally given a 100+ effort.

Promoting one’s own book can be uncomfortable for many of us, especially Mennonites (see more on humility in an earlier Mennobytes blogpost by Blush editor Byron Rempel-Burkholder). We’re told not to brag or draw attention to ourselves. But selling a good book that draws attention to this faith group and ultimately God, Jesus, and a lot of good folks who try to follow the Christian path, is what this faith is all about–sharing it with others. No blushing. (You can order it here, through a local bookstore, or on Amazon.)

IMG_8700And P.S.: The real shipper of many of those pre-orders for Blush is here in the center, in a black top, between Shirley Showalter and publisher Russ Eanes: Beth Nealon. Others in back rows: Neal Weaver, IT, Melodie Davis, marketing/editorial, Jerilyn Schrock, marketing, and Merrill Miller, designer.

Melodie Davis, Mennobytes Blog coordinator

Should You Judge a Book by its Cover?

We’ve all grown up hearing the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Working in the publishing industry (and more specifically, in marketing), this saying can be a bit troublesome. While it would certainly be wonderful for books to be read completely on the merits of their writing, very few (if any) people have the time to read every single book that they come across before they develop their opinion about it.

While it would be wonderful for people to purchase books based on the recommendations of others (like librarians, friends, and teachers), rather than just by the most eye-catching covers and titles, that is unlikely to ever happen. As humans, we tend to make snap judgements about people, art, music, and even books as soon as we see them.

If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he writes about the important role our initial impressions play in our decision making process. There is always a split second of our first impressions that gives us an irrational “gut feeling” about something. Whether we choose to mind those first impressions or not, they still play a huge role in developing our overall and final opinions of people, movies, and books.

Because of this, we in publishing put a lot of time and effort into developing new covers, titles, and marketing pieces for books. An intriguing or catchy cover can easily mean the difference between someone picking up a book or walking past it. A cover can’t just be catchy, however, it also needs to be representative of the story inside, a process that Chip Kidd talks about more in the Ted Talks episode below. For those of you who don’t know, Chip is the designer who came up with the Jurassic Park logo back in the day.

If you don’t actually have time to watch it right now (I realize it is a 17 minute video), I’ll try to give a quick summary. Chip talks about the thought and effort that goes into designing a book cover that represents those without being overwhelming in the process. One example he gives from his time in college is a lesson from a teacher about how it is okay to either show a picture of an apple or the word apple, but if you try to focus on both the image and the words, you are giving the consumer too much (The cover of Blink offers a demonstration of this ideal in action).

The goal of a designer is to create that first impression you get from the cover and transition that interest into reading and purchasing that book. We happen to have two amazing designers that are incredibly good at doing this and I would like to take this opportunity to recognize them for the work they do (and show off some of their covers). They do a lot to make my job in Marketing much easier!

Merrill Miller:


Reuben Graham:

Next time you are in a library or bookstore and find yourself picking up a new book to look at, take the time and consider the role the cover played in that process (or just buy it if it was one of ours ;-)).

Evan McCarthy (Marketing)