Friday, April 14, 2017

Industry Insider: Tara Lehmann, Publicist

I'm always curious to learn more about the various publishing roles that contribute to launching a book out into the world. I met publicist, Tara Lehmann at an event at Children's Hospital of Michigan. A Little Free Library had been donated to the hospital emergency room, and Tara was distributing books from Sleeping Bear Press, both for the hospital patients and to help stock the new library. 

Pi Beta Phi donated books for their philanthropic Detroit Fraternity Day of Service, and Ann Arbor author Debbie Taylor read her picture book, Sweet Music in Harlem, with a little help (and antics) from Hooper, the mascot of the Detroit Pistons.

The Detroit police even made a brief appearance to help distribute books.
Tara Lehman

Tara is new to Michigan from the West Coast. Please give her a warm welcome, and read on to learn more about her role as a publicist.

What is your job title? Tell us about your responsibilities and describe a typical day.
I'm the Publicist for Sleeping Bear Press and Cherry Lake Publishing. Basically it's my job to promote books at events, at conferences, on social media, and for awards. A typical day for me varies, but it might include answering emails, chatting with upcoming authors about their author platforms, sending books out for review, or planning events. 

What's your favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?
My favorite part of the job is taking a title and trying to look at it from a different angle. Sometimes the most effective approaches are the ones people don't immediately think of and the responses can amazing. Often times the most challenging is the waiting. Waiting for reviews, waiting for books to come in, waiting to hear back from people about an event opportunity. 

Tell us a story about something funny or magical or something that went terribly awry when you were working with an author or at an event.
Several years ago, I was working for a different publisher and we were attending a comic con. It was so much fun, I love seeing all the costumes. Well, one of our graphic novels featured a Smilodon and we happened to have boxes and boxes of plush Smilodons in our backroom. Intending to sell a handful, I took a box or three with me to the event. Thankfully the con was local because I ended up running back to the office three more times that weekend to get more plushies! Never underestimate the appeal of prehistoric creature plushies when there are kids around.

What are some new or upcoming titles you're especially excited about?
Everyone has a title or two that they're most excited for. One is The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale by Susan Wood and illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (or you can call him Nick) which is about a colony of beavers in Idaho in the 1940s that were causing problems for the people, so they decided to relocate them. But since they weren't able to drive them to the new location (no roads), one man created a contraption that would allow for the beavers to safely be launched out of a plane! 

The other is Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Jessica Lanan. A fantastic biographical picture book by the same author who wrote The Music in George's Head about George Gershwin, Out of School and Into Nature is about Anna B. Comstock, a woman who bucked tradition and became a pioneer in the fields of education, science, and art. She started a movement encouraging schools to host science and nature classes outdoors! And as a fun fact, she's one of four female inductees into the National Wildlife Federation Hall of Fame. 

What advice do you have for authors regarding promotion/publicity/marketing?
If you're a first time author or an old hat at the game, always keep in mind that promotion doesn't need to be expensive. Creating websites, social media content-- that can be free as well as a great way to get the word out! Look for ways to collaborate with other authors, team up for events if you're able, or reach out to people that you know in the community. If you want to spend money, try and make sure it's something that can do double duty, like a bookmark with a QR code or web address so they can find out more about you and the book. And don't be afraid to talk about yourself and your book, that's how people find great new titles!

Outside of work, what do you enjoy? How do you spend your time?
Outside of work I enjoy reading (of course), video games, cooking/baking, and writing YA. When I'm away from the office, I'm just like any other hopeful writer wanting to be published, but with just a little bit extra industry knowledge. 

Thanks for taking time out of your busy day, Tara!
Learn more about Ann Arbor, Michigan-based publisher Sleeping Bear Press at their website and follow on Twitter and Facebook.

And while we're talking about marketing, it's time to register for our upcoming SCBWI-MI event:
Marketing Bootcamp: A Day Devoted to the Business of Writing, April 29th

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Nina Goebel is coordinating with our new Featured Illustrator. We'll introduce her and unveil our new blog banner soon. Plus, more Michigan KidLit Advocates, a Writer's Toolbox, creating teacher guides, self-publishing a second novel, and another Writer's Spotlight - it could be you!

Happy creating!
Kristin Lenz


  1. Nice to meet you, Tara! Welcome to Michigan! :-)

  2. Great to meet Tara. So interesting that it's frustrating for publicists to wait too, though for them it's for reviews. That's such a frustrating part for writers as well. Hope you enjoy Michigan, Tara. We have a really supportive writing group here.