Faye Rapoport DesPres

Writers in the Trenches: Packing a Suitcase — and Marketing A Book — with Ellie Dias

Ellie Dias

I first “met” Ellie Dias (we’ve actually never met in person) when she was signed on to the same publisher that published my memoir-in-essays, Message From a Blue Jay. The authors published by that wonderful independent press, Buddhapuss Ink, tended to communicate, share tips, and help each other promote their latest work.

Some years have passed now, but this group of writers still feels connected. So, when I learned Dias was finishing up her second manuscript, I suggested we do this interview. My readers will be pleased, because in line with her generous nature, Dias included a list of marketing tips that will be helpful to any “writer in the trenches.”

Dias is a devotee of Buddhist philosophy, meditation and yoga. Her career has focused on health and wellness; she has worked as a biology professor, pediatric nurse, clinician working with families whose babies were at risk for SIDS, and division VP of a women’s health care company. Dias’ debut book, a memoir titled Big Red: How I Learned Simplicity from a Suitcase, was inspired by her solo journey to the Himalayas. It’s a tale of perseverance and humor as the author struggles to jettison her western ways while lugging a 95-pound suitcase jam-packed with her bare necessities.

A watercolor and pastels artist, Ellie Dias lives with her husband Ron and their dog Roxie in Massachusetts.  She recently finished her first novel.

FRD: Ellie, your book Big Red: How I Learned Simplicity from a Suitcase tells the story of your travels through such exotic places as Nepal and Tibet. How would you compare that journey to the journey of becoming a published author?

ED: My solo journey to the Himalayas required patience, determination, and fortitude. It was fraught with challenges and detours. I experienced all of the above on the road to publishing.

FRD: Walk us through the process of finding a publisher for your memoir. What steps did you take, and how long was it before your novel found a home?

ED: The journey began when I was encouraged to write a book about my travels. Working full-time, it took four years to complete the manuscript and work with an editor. Searching the lengthy list of publishing contacts met with sudden death. Disappointed, I could have wallpapered my office with the number of rejections.

I decided to send out one more query before I entertained self-publishing. Fate, lady luck, the divine…nineteen months later Big Red found a home.

FRD: Many writers think that landing a publishing contract is the end of the story — the point when you’ve arrived. It’s really just the beginning, though, isn’t it? Describe what it has been like to promote your book since the day it was released. 

ED: As soon as I knew the book was going to be published, I developed a strategic marketing plan:

  • After collecting over 400 email addresses and putting them in Excel, I created eye-catching marketing pieces using Canva.com
  • I transferred addresses to Mailchimp to send out announcements
  • I also sent them to twitter, FB, Linkedin and ASMG sites
  • I developed an author website
  • Created blogs with chapter excerpts, book trailer penned for all social media
  • Participated in Good Reads
  • Searched the internet for Top Reviewers–enlisted two
  • Sent excerpts to various magazines—printed in two
  • Contacted local newspapers. Garnered interviews by two reporters
  • Interviews published in several key newspapers
  • Sent introductory letters with a link to my author website requesting an opportunity to present Big Red to Libraries in Western Mass, Connecticut, Maine and RI and other venue types. I learned if an individual did not call back, I either picked up the phone and spoke to them or drove to the venue with my book in hand. I never got a refusal.
  • Contacted two bloggers to be interviewed
  • Requested readers to take a picture with the book

I was successful in promoting Big Red with all of the above.

FRD: You are currently working on your second manuscript. What do you hope will be the same — or different — about this book?

ED: This book is a novel, so my query letters will be to different publishers. My hope? It takes less time to catch the interest of a publisher.

FRD: What is unique about your voice or message as a writer? What does Ellie Dias want to say to the world?

ED: I don’t think my voice is unique as a writer. Taking the monetary value out of the equation, I think what we all want is to have our written word evoke emotions and touch our readers, be something they can relate to, that stays with them. Big Red accomplished that based on all the feedback I received. I have been told several people have and will read it twice.

FRD: How can readers find your work or get in touch?

ED: Email: ellie.dias@yahoo.com ; Author website:  http://elliedias.com/; Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Big-Red-Learned-Simplicity-Suitcase-ebook/dp/B071DPSB6C

FRD: Thank you, Ellie! Best of luck with your second book.