Tuesday, June 28, 2016
When I told my husband I wanted to put a butterfly garden in our backyard last summer, he looked at me with his typical patient expression and said, “Sure, why not?”
Please realize that, at the time, neither of us knew jack about butterflies or what to plant in this type of garden. But when we finally removed a large strip of over-grown mock orange shrubs from our yard last year, we knew it was time to do our part for the planet and provide a safe space where threatened insects like monarch butterflies and bees could roam free of pesticides and predators.
We tilled the soil, read up on nectaring and host plants that butterflies like, listened to the experts at a local butterfly farm, planted, and then waited and watched as our first group of caterpillars emerged.
We learned a few things during that first summer: that monarch caterpillars will eat our milkweed plants to the ground, that most caterpillars don’t make it to the chrysalis stage, that even those that do make it are sometimes attached by predators like tachinid flies, wasps, and lizards, and that when a single caterpillar makes it to the chrysalis stage, it’s something of a miracle.
Our first summer, we had a few butterflies visit our garden. None of our caterpillars survived.
But we didn’t give up. Instead we lovingly tended our garden through the winter, nurturing the existing plants, replacing those that were too damaged or thinned out, getting additional advice from the experts at the butterfly farm, and adding new plants to make the garden more inviting to butterflies.
This summer, in our second year of butterfly gardening, we’ve had multiple butterflies visit the garden daily. Caterpillars have appeared on a regular basis, eating their way through our milkweed and fennel plants, and a few of them have already successfully transformed into beautiful butterflies.
If I’ve learned anything while putting this garden together, it’s that it doesn’t take a lot of initial knowledge to try something new. And with a little research, effort, patience, guidance, and love, we can be successful in our endeavors.
I like to remind my publicity clients, especially those who lament that they know nothing about promotion, that these same gardening values – research, effort, patience, guidance, and, yes, love – can help them to be successful in their book marketing efforts. Initially, the first attempt at promoting may include a learning curve, where the response may not be great, readers may not come in droves, reviews may be thin or grudging, and sales may be slow to non-existent.
But the next time you promote a book, you’ve learned some things about yourself, your writing, and what works and what doesn’t when you promote. You make adjustments, adding new material, asking experts (like publicists!) for advice, considering new avenues for marketing, and learning more about the process.
And then, the next time you do it, everything changes – that first group of readers and reviewers remembers you and buys your new book, reviews start to come in a little quicker, speaking appearances are easier to book, bloggers offer you spots on their pages, opportunities for marketing begin to broaden, and promotion and publicity gets easier. If you are dedicated and take what you’ve learned to heart, the results can be astonishing.
Like creating a butterfly garden, promoting a book is a labor of love. The first time around may be disappointing. But when authors are willing to put in the hard work and be open to learning, to making adjustments, and to loving the process, the groundwork set during the first effort pays off. With research, energy, patience, good guidance and a whole lot of love, your book publicity efforts will thrive.