Writing a book is not a one-and-done process. If you want people to actually read what you have written, then you have to learn to do marketing. This, in itself, contains multiple layers. In this episode, Juliet Clark interviews not one but two great guests from the industry. She talks to the CEO of The Unapologetic Voice House, Carrie Severson, and the Founder of Bedside Reading, Jane Ubell-Meyer. Together, Carrie and Jane partnered on a marketing program called Bedside Reading Books Subscription Services / Indie Book Box™ Subscription Service program, where they help authors promote their books across different layers of media. They tell us all about this amazing program along with their 15-layered book marketing system. Tune in as Carrie and Jane unravel the secret sauce of successfully sharing your stories and bringing books to life. Promote your book today!
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Creative Author Marketing
We have two guests on the show. Before we get started in this episode, I wanted to remind you to go over and check out Author Traffic School at AuthorTrafficSchool.com. Check out all the courses we have over there for building your author platform. One of the things that we are very proud of is that we meet you where you are at as an author because everybody comes to the table with different skillsets and different amounts of marketing and platform-building setup. Be sure to go over there and check it out.
Also, grab your free copy of Breakthrough Author Magazine at BreakthroughAuthorMagazine.com. This episode guests, I’m glad to welcome Carrie Severson and Jane Ubell-Meyer. For those of you who don’t know about Bedside Reading®, we’re going to talk about this now. This is a program that I was introduced to by someone back in 2019. I didn’t pursue it much because 2020 hit. Now that we’re over the whole COVID thing and people are traveling again, this is a great opportunity for authors.
Let me introduce these two and then we’ll get right into the interview. Carrie Severson is the Chief Executive Officer of The Unapologetic Voice House, a book publishing agency. Carrie and her team work with leaders who have big stories to tell and are on a mission to make an impact with their stories. She’s also the author of Unapologetically Enough, a mental health book that looks at how we can move through burnout and disappointment and still see enough to love ourselves. She has been a professional storyteller for years. She’s a trailblazer who’s always uncovering new untapped wells for authors to share their stories with the world.
Jane Ubell-Meyer is the Founder of Bedside Reading®, the world’s leader in placing and promoting books and authors in five-star luxury hotels like the Hamptons and the Media. In 2023, Jane celebrates 22 years of placing books in the Hamptons through her company Buzz Bags and Madison & Mulholland. In 2020, when COVID hit the travel industry, Jane published Bedside Reading® Magazine, which was distributed throughout the hotels in the Hamptons with subsequent issues distributed by Publishers Weekly and Hollywood Weekly nationwide.
She recommends books and magazines and is a frequent TV guest recommending books to readers in Los Angeles. Jane is a powerhouse and former TV film producer. Her credits include Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, and the Wall Street Journal TV. Jane also produced several films like Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean, Sioux City, and Precious Find. Carrie and Jane have partnered on a marketing program called Bedside Reading® Books Subscription Services. I’m excited. I don’t know if my reader’s demographic is old enough to remember Leona Helmsley. We might have to touch on that in the interview. Stay tuned. You’re going to love these ladies.
Welcome ladies. I’m excited to chat with you in this episode.
Thank you for having us. It’s sweet of you to give us a shout-out.
I’m excited because all the time when we publish, we build platforms, people sell books from the bestseller campaign, and then they don’t know where to go next. That can be tough for people to sell books. You guys have so many great products. Should we start with your indie box first?
Before we begin, I want to say a shout-out to Carrie. It’s the anniversary of her book launch. Why don’t you tell us what it is?
My book came out, Unapologetically Enough, and it’s been a wild ride. I love that you do this because as an indie publisher myself and as an author, I see the ups and downs of book sales. I see the frustration. I see all of that from behind the scenes as a publisher as well as somebody who’s been in this storytelling space for as long as I have. What happens before you publish the book and during the launch of the book is very different than what an author goes through once the book is out. This is a phenomenal conversation, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to talk about this.
Carrie, I’m going to veer off here. You started your business for many of the reasons I started mine. Take us through that journey. I came from traditional publishing and I went to advertising. When I self-published my first book, I was appalled by what was out there. You had an epiphany along the way on your journey too. Would you mind sharing that?
I started in storytelling in the ’90s in journalism and moved my way around from being an essayist to a publicist to the actual person being written about when I became an entrepreneur. In 2011, I launched a non-profit for girls that was a girl bullying solutions organization, right when Michelle Obama launched StopBullying.gov. My little one person had catapulted into the national spotlight, and I burned out. I wrote my book Unapologetically Enough about my burnout recovery journey and pitched 100 agents based on the response to things that I was writing and getting published in media outlets.
77 out of 100 agents responded, which is fairly high. Many of them compared my work to Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Gabby Bernstein. They said, “Because you don’t have 100,000, 250,000, or 1 million followers, I’m passing.” You hear it once, it’s okay. You hear it five times, and you’re a little frustrated, but when you hear it 77 times, you accept the fact that this isn’t going to happen.
I was being told I wasn’t saleable and I wasn’t enough. Unapologetically Enough was born out of that experience of, “I’m just going to go off and I’m going to be the house.” I created The Unapologetic Voice House for women like me who have good stories and are phenomenal writers, and are compared to bigger authors and told that we’re not saleable.
It’s been a few years and a great experience. I finally published my book because I was waiting for the right time. Had I published Unapologetically Enough in 2016 when I was pitching it, it wouldn’t have landed the way it’s landed now because employee retention is the number one thing in Corporate America. Burnout is in the hearts of every person walking along the planet. There is timing for everything.
It sounds like you are like me. Out of the sheer frustration of the industry, I started my own thing. Jane, do you want to tell us a little bit about your background? You’ve been doing this for years with the boxes in the magazine.
I started my career in television. I was a TV producer for many years for Good Morning America, Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Tonight, and ABC. I made three movies, and then I went into burnout mode. In 2017, my best friend passed away. At the time, I had a business called Madison & Mulholland and we were the top celebrity gifting company in the country. After Noreen died, I went, “I’m done. I can’t do one more step.” I had this burnout moment and stopped.
At night, I would pray to Noreen and be angry at her for leaving. I would say, “Noreen, why aren’t you talking to me in my dreams? What’s up with that?” One morning, I woke up and had this dream. We were at this big long oak table and she was at the head of the table. She intertwined her fingers. I said, “Noreen, how come I feel your fingers? You’re dead.” She said, “You need to feel that I’m around you all the time.” I said, “Wow.”
I woke up crying because I missed her. I said to her the next night or two, “What should I do next?” Literally, Bedside Reading® came into my brain, and I decided to marry books with hotels because who loves to travel? It’s me. Who loves to read? I do. I started thinking, “Why not grab a hold of this concept?” That was August 15th, 2017 when I launched. It’s been quite a journey because I didn’t know much about publishing, but I knew about marketing. All my years as a TV producer, I know how to market anything. My husband loves to call me the spinmeister. I can spin anything.
When you’re a producer, whether you’re a guest is an author, a politician, or whatever they are, you have to spin or tell a story. I learned how to do that, and it’s a very natural flow to be helping my authors. We’ve been very successful. We have 44 hotels and were poised to go to the heights. I told this to Carrie. My dream is 1,000 hotels. I was in the Hamptons. I told my dream to one of my hotel partners, and he said, “It’s not a problem.” We’re going to take it to 1,400 new hotels. This is what’s going to happen.
Let’s jump into some of the products. I cannot even tell you when I look over this list of the fifteen-layered book marketing system, these guys have some unique things they’re doing. Let’s start with the indie box because I’ve had experience in other industries with these boxes and what a great idea. Who wants to take it?
I want to say something. I am so blessed and grateful that Carrie and I started talking a few months ago and were very fortunate to meet at the IBPA. We hung out together for a couple of days. We got excited and launched this brand-new program. Take it away, Carrie.
The subscription box industry is a billion-dollar business. My personal opinion is this is where consumers are going in terms of how they’re getting their materials and how they’re getting everything from their self-care needs to their professional needs. There are so many different niches and boxes to fit whatever hobby you have or whatever profession you were in. My book started getting picked up by subscription boxes.
When I say got picked up, I pitched, I worked, and I opened doors. I kicked down things and did that. It’s been several thousands and thousands of copies have been placed. I think it’s where readership is going. It’s an untapped market for authors. It’s the new form of media because these companies are popping up left and right consistently all the time and they’re always looking for content. They have to place anywhere from 5 to 8 products in a box under a certain limit so that they’re shipping costs don’t increase.
It’s almost like a formula at this point. It’s so much fun. Jane and I started talking and partnering. We have this service where we take on ten authors a month. We’re looking for different genres, anywhere from children’s books to business books, inspirational books, sub-development, meditation, and fiction. We have a great long list that continues to get longer. We pitch these authors we’re taking on to the subscription boxes. We’re negotiating deals on their behalf and we’re helping fulfill orders with relationships we have with printers and helping authors move content, move books, and get sales. It’s fantastic.
In addition, we’re adding some of the Bedside Reading® marketing elements to this as well. When a book gets picked up, we are going to take the image of the book in the gift box and we’ll be promoting it on different layers of media that we control. We have a $1,500 set-up fee because it takes 3 to 4 months of hard work and hard pitching to get a deal and negotiate on both ends for the box and for the printer. Also, managing the deliverables, postage, and shipping. It’s not as simple as it sounds. There are a lot of different layers, so the setup fee helps cover the cost of our time. We do have people working with us on behalf of the author plus the media that we can bring to the table. It’s a win-win for everybody.
By the way, Carrie and I will not take on an author we don’t feel we could set up. That’s first of all. Second of all, if we cannot, for some reason, set up in four months, we will give that author a complimentary ad in my next magazine, which is a nice little perk. We want them to feel that they’re being heard and they’re being taken care of. That’s what we’re doing.
Is this best for authors who own their own rights? It’s because they have to be able to print a quantity of books for this to go out. If you’re with a traditional publisher, there may be some hoops you’d have to go through, but if you’re someone who’s done a hybrid or self-publishing, they should be free to go with you guys. Correct?
Yes. We’ve spoken to the biggest publishing houses because they’ve been working with me at Bedside Reading® for years and years. They have their own teams. They push out their own books. Unfortunately, for an author who’s with a big publisher, if they’re not on their radar to push, they can’t do anything about it and we can’t either. Our sweet spot is helping the indie author, the authors who are with hybrid publishers. That’s our sweet spot. We feel that we have an unserved market. We feel like we could be their champions because nobody else is looking out for them except for us in this world.
As Carrie was saying, there were those big authors she was competing with that she couldn’t get visibility. You guys are providing a layer of great visibility for indie authors who may have gotten a lot of those noes and went this route because of that. The indie boxes are great, but tell me a little bit about the Bedside Reading. That’s unique as well. I’ve traveled a lot, especially with advertising, and I sit there and turn on the boob tube at night because I’m bored stiff.
It started back when I was in my twenties. I met the guy, and he said to me, “Jane, if you learn how to scuba dive, I’ll take you to the Caribbean.” As an idiot, I jump into the pool at the YMCA in New York City. I get certified. We go to the Caribbean. As we’re going into a romantic seven days of scuba diving and fun, he turns to me and goes, “Jane, I like you, but I’m not interested in you.”
The night before we left, my stepmother Marsha gave me this book to read. It was this thick 500 pages-plus. It was called Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice. I almost didn’t take it with me because it was such a heavy schlep, but I did, and thank goodness because, in those days, there was no Amazon and no internet. I had this book to read, and it saved my seven days.
I always remembered in the back of my brain, “Whether you’re traveling, on the subway, or wherever you’re going, take a book with you.” That’s how I started with the concept and asked Noreen. She jogged my brain from the other side. Bedside Reading® places books in luxury hotels, in the Hamptons by the poolside, or in different ways so that a guest can get a complimentary book.
What are the ideal types of books for that situation? Do people like more fiction? If they’re on a trip, do they want to look at personal development?
Think about this. Everyone’s eclectic. When you go into a bookstore, you don’t always go to the thriller section, self-help, personal growth, or whatever. It’s whatever sparks your eye. Carrie is now insistent that the book cover is the number one most important thing that you can do. Create a great book cover. I say to every author, “How many book covers have you created that have been best sellers?” They usually say, “None.” I say, “Let’s go to a professional. Let them do it.” We take every kind of book except religious and political. We won’t place 50 Shades of Gray in a hotel because it’s going to be sensitive.The book cover is the number one most important thing that you can do. Click To Tweet
You don’t want to put it in there right next to the Bible.
I’m sure that they would like it, but I’m not doing it. I have to be respectful. I love books about social issues. It’s Gay Pride Month in June. We have a book by a doctor, and she’s a lesbian. The book is well done. It’s a memoir of how she struggled to come out in the ’60s and be a woman doctor and deal with her sexuality but it’s not sexual. It’s about her life, which I feel is valid and beautiful.
It’s a great book. In fact, my husband and I listened to the audiobook. We had a trip in California driving down the coast. I said, “You’re a straight White male. What do you think of this?” He thought it was fascinating. He had no idea of all the drama and the angst that this woman went through being a doctor, a woman, and a lesbian. It was interesting from his perspective. We’ll take books of all kinds. It has to have a great book cover, number one.
Tell us a little bit about the magazines, too, because you guys have these bigger programs, but you also have a lot of other marketing that you do as well for authors. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Because I come from the media, I know how important media is, whether it’s TV, video, or print. I started aligning myself with magazines where I could offer Bedside Reading® book recommendations. We have 7 or 8 magazines, physical as well as print from Lux Lifestyle Magazine to Woman’s World. Every month Bedside Reading® recommends books to read. They’re not all my clients, by the way. They’re books that I really like and that I feel people should be aware of. That’s one of the layers of book marketing that we do provide. Everybody should know this. Book marketing isn’t one thing or another. It’s layers. It’s speaking. It’s doing an outreach. It’s having a blog, Instagram, or social media. Carrie knows only too well because she’s been marketing her book for the last few years.
I started marketing Unapologetically Enough a year before it came out. One of the things that I think so many authors cheat themselves with is, “I want to get this out for X and X,” which is three months down the road. There are so many things that go into it. Having a team behind you and having somebody that understands publishing and the ins and outs of it is so important. As I said, what you go through as a writer is different than what you go through once it’s published and then the marathon that you have along the way.
Over the last year, Unapologetically Enough has been picked up by subscription boxes. I turned that into workshops. I’ve secured my first corporate workshop. I’ve been asked to speak about my journey at healthcare conferences, and it’s unfolding. I feel like I’ve turned the wheel once. Many people, once your book comes out, get this vulnerability hangover and they almost go inward. They’re like, “Whatever happens, happens,” and I’m the opposite. I’m like, “I can’t wait to see what happens next.” I’m going to help it along.
You said something interesting, which is true. I’ve worked on a couple of campaigns for some of the majors. St. Martin’s Press would give me a book to seed or get out there five months before the pub date. However, one of the things that’s important is, like Carrie’s book, a year after the day it was published. It has a huge shelf life. Just because the publishing industry says it’s not a current book now and it’s a backlist book, in my opinion, it’s BS.
She spent all this time and energy writing this book, pouring her guts into this book and her soul, then it should have a shelf life forever. It’s not just putting it out and hoping it rains for three months and it’s gone. One of the little wonderful little things that have come out of Bedside Reading® is that we love back-listed books because, in my mind, you’re giving a book another life, another chance to grow and to find new fans and new readers. The more you keep pushing out a book, and the more your fan list grows so that when you’re ready for your next book, they’re aware of you. That helps increase sales for your next book.The more you keep pushing out a book, the more your fan list grows. When you're ready for your next book, they're aware of you. Click To Tweet
It’s true. I started out as a fiction writer. My very first book sold very few copies. I picked up on that author platform and, by the third book, I’d sold over 25,000 copies. There was a lot of platform building and fan base building in between those books to get it to that point. I love what Carrie said about she started a year before. Most people wait because they’re not sure they’re going to write that book, so they don’t buy the publishing package upfront. They don’t start building the platform until they’re done.
Our sweet spot is expert books. If you want to translate that book into more business, you have to build that platform in advance. Carrie, you can probably attest to this. It’s not easy. There are a lot of moving parts that go into it and a lot of tech. If you’re not a techie, there’s a very steep learning curve there with it but what a great place you guys have ended up in with helping authors get their books out there. I love that you worked for St. Martin’s Press. They do more fiction, don’t they?
Yes. They hired me as a book marketing for Bedside Reading® when they had big blockbusters that they needed to get out. Let me share something interesting. Not only am I thrilled to do this Indie Book Box, which I think is genius. I am giving all the credit to Carrie because she deserves it, but here’s what’s happened. Carrie and I become really good friends. One of the loveliest things that have come out of it is understanding that I have her back as a woman.
I have her back as a friend. I have her back as a colleague, and I have her back as a partner. I know that she’s got mine and it’s a delicious new experience for me because I’ve been a solopreneur for so long. I’ve been looking for a great partner, and the partners that I’ve had in some cases haven’t worked out well. Some of them have, and some of them haven’t, but this to me is feeling so safe.
Carrie, are you a member of The Dames?
That’s what I thought. So am I. What Jane’s describing is a lot of that power partnership that we do so well in The Dames. “I’ve got your back. We’re not just business. We’re not just promoting each other. We’re friends.” There are a lot of groups out there where it comes down to, “Carrie, I give you four leads. Where are my four leads?” It’s not about that. It’s about taking care of everybody around you and it will come back to you tenfold. That’s what I love so much about The Dames and the collaboration in it. Where can we find you guys? You have a free gift for our audience as well. I met Carrie many weeks ago. Somebody had come to me and said, “I want my cover to be like Carrie’s.” It was 1 day or 2 before.
Thank you so much. What I’m giving everybody is complimentary access. There’s a website here. There’s a QR code or just go to the website at BedsideReading.com/brgift. They can get access to all of our current digital books, audiobooks, eBooks, meditations, and podcasts. We’re happy to put your show on our hotel pages as well to expand your readership. We’re extremely happy to do that.
Thank you, guys. Jane, I have to tell you. I made a joke in the introduction, Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean. I don’t even know that my audience is old enough to remember that. Guys, go check it out because when I was reading that, I almost cracked up. That was from the ’90s, wasn’t it?
It actually was from the ’90s. There was a woman named Leona Helmsley. Ironically, she was a hotelier. She owned hotels. Weirdly enough, I’m in that business now. She was a total queen of mean, and she went to jail. She was the punk of New York City. Everyone despised her. I was fortunate enough to find somebody who had the rights to the book. He called me and he said to me, “I want to give a lesson to everybody. Here’s a lesson. Return every phone call. Return every email because you cannot read the mind of somebody calling you.”Return every phone call and email, because you cannot read the mind of somebody calling you. Click To Tweet
I met this guy at a party. He was calling me. I thought he wanted a date. He was not my type, but I went. I got to call him back anyway. When I called him back, he goes, “I have the rights to Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean, the book. Do you want to make it a movie?” I did make it into a movie. I called him back and made a movie deal. We also have a service where we connect authors to Hollywood producers. We have three projects and development now, and they were our clients. Our books are three projects. We do lots of different things.
I don’t know why that popped into my head. Didn’t she leave all of her money to her dogs or something?
She left $11 million or whatever. I can’t remember what it was.
That’s a darn good dog food. Thank you, ladies. I appreciate you having you on here.
Thank you so much.
- Bedside Reading®
- The Unapologetic Voice House
- Unapologetically Enough
- Bedside Reading® Books Subscription Services
- Cry to Heaven
About Carrie Severson
Carrie Severson is the Chief Executive Officer of the Unapologetic Voice House, a book publishing agency. Carrie and her team work with leaders who have big stories to tell and are on a mission to make an impact with their stories. She is also the author of Unapologetically Enough, a mental health book that looks at how we can move through burnout and disappointment and still see and love ourselves as enough. She has been a professional storyteller for 30 years. She is a trailblazer, always uncovering new, untapped wells for authors to share their stories with the world.
About Jane Ubell
Jane Ubell- Meyer is the founder of Bedside Reading®, the world’s leader in placing and promoting books and authors in 5-star luxury hotels, the Hamptons, and the Media. This year, Jane celebrates 22 years of placing books in the Hamptons (through her companies, Buzz Bags and Madison & Mulholland). In 2020, when COVID hit the travel industry, Jane published “Bedside Reading Magazine, which was distributed throughout the hotels in the Hamptons with subsequent issues distributed by Publishers Weekly and Hollywood Weekly nationwide. She recommends books in magazines and is a frequent TV guest recommending books to readers in Los Angeles. Jane is a powerhouse and a former TV/Film producer, her credits include GMA, ET, and WSJ-TV. She also produced several films. Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean, Sioux City, and Precious Find. Carrie and Jane have partnered on a marketing program called Bedside Reading’s Book Book Subscription Service.
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