(Leslie Marinelli, editor of You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth and Other Things You’ll Only Hear from Your Friends In The Powder Room, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the book. Besides Marinelli, the book features pieces by six other EBWW alumnae (Dawn Weber, Wendi Aarons, Shari Simpson, Alexandra Rosas, Julie Stamper and Su “The Suniverse” ) as well as a recent Humor Writer of the Month, Abby Heugel. Marinelli is editor-in-chief of In The Powder Room, an online global community for women. She blogs at The Bearded Iris: A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All.)
What’s the premise behind the book?
“You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth” is a humor anthology of 39 original short stories written for women, by women, about being women — bodily changes, relationships, careers, motherhood, aging, etc. These are the kind of brutally honest, embarrassing stories women usually only tell their closest friends, often from within the haven of a ladies’ room. So aside from the voyeuristic entertainment value, the purpose of this book is to forge connections between women and help readers experience the solidarity of those “me, too!” moments that happen when friends reveal their deep dark secrets with humor and heart.
What’s been the response?
The response has been incredible. Right out of the gate we became the #1 top-selling book in our category on Amazon, and for several weeks following that we were the #1 top-rated humor book on Amazon as well. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews, there seems to be a real hunger out there right now for authentic and somewhat edgy women’s humor.
How long did it take to produce the book, from soliciting pieces and editing to production?
It took about four months total from creating the book cover to publishing, but we had a small team of editors working around the clock with caffeine IVs and adult diapers to pull that off.
How did you find a publisher? Why did you choose to self publish?
Choosing to self-publish was a no-brainer for us. The beauty of independent publishing (or “artisanal publishing” according to Guy Kawasaki) is that you maintain 100 percent control over your product and you get to keep the lion’s share of the profits. In The Powder Room has been around since 2009 honing our skills in humor writing, curating, editing, online publishing, and marketing. So extending our online community to include published books was just a natural progression for us.
How have you marketed the book?
Most of our marketing at this point has been through word of mouth…mainly by my mother who has bought and distributed 20 copies (and counting). If she buys any more, I’m going to have to make her a shareholder. Truly, though, this is the kind of book that women love so much they’re buying it for all the other women in their lives. We also have a built-in marketing team of 40 very enthusiastic co-authors who are out there proudly sharing it across their social networks. It’s really been a thrill to watch them take so much pride in the book, and rightly so — the competition was pretty fierce to earn one of the 39 coveted spots in the book, which is one of the reasons why the quality of the content is so extraordinary.
What tips would you give other writers who have a book in them?
My number one tip is to hire a professional graphic designer to create your cover. (We used Lisa Knight of Designs Done Now.) This is critical! The whole “Don’t judge a book by its cover” cliché exists because people really DO judge books by their covers. Also, make your book available in as many e-reader formats as you can. E-books are a win-win: the price point for customers is better, and your profit margin is much higher.
The single greatest lesson you learned from the experience?
As a humor writer, the single greatest lesson I learned was to swallow my pride, expose my jugular, and seek input from peers during the writing process. In addition to the professional editing I received from my team (Di Hayman and Kim Bongiono), I also sent a draft of my story to Abby Heugel (Abby Has Issues) and Julie Stamper (A Day in the Wife), two of my co-authors whose writing style and humor felt similar to my own, and they both gave me invaluable advice for how to improve my story.
As an editor and book publisher, the learning curve was pretty steep! I definitely learned to outsource some of the administrative and formatting tasks next time. But overall, the experience and final product were so fulfilling that we are already working on the sequel. Look for “How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This?” an anthology about finding the funny in the face of tragedy, early next spring!