Promotion is a 24/7 job when you run your own business


Leon Nguyen

AIC students Drahcir Dickson and Aaron Yates with author Suzanne Strempek Shea.

Mary Ellen Lowney, Publisher

AIC Prof. Patrick Johnson, author Suzanne Strempek Shea and AIC Prof. Mary Ellen Lowney
Leon Nguyen
AIC Prof. Patrick Johnson, author Suzanne Strempek Shea and AIC Prof. Mary Ellen Lowney

Marketing and promotion can be as old-school as a hand-written thank-you note, or as contemporary as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram postings.

It’s all a matter of pouring yourself into the job.

That was the message from local author Suzanne Strempek Shea, who visited two Communication Department classes – Public Relations and Writing for Media – to explain and show the time she devotes to getting her product out in the public arena.

And with 11 books under her belt and 21 years of doing her own marketing with local, national and reaches, Strempek Shea has surely proven herself.

She said it’s not rocket science, but it takes hard work and dedication.

Palmer author Suzanne Strempek Shea spoke to Communication students about her marketing work.
Leon Nguyen
Palmer author Suzanne Strempek Shea spoke to Communication students about her marketing work.

“I’m an author and a freelance writer, and a lot of that is powered by my efforts at public relations,” she noted.

“I fell into doing a lot of publicity on my own. I figured things out as I went along, and I learned from people who offered advice,” she added.

Strempek Shea has her writing roots in the newspaper industry – she was a reporter and writer for the former Springfield Daily News and Union-News, now the Springfield Republican, as well as feature writer for the Providence Journal.

Her first book, ‘Selling the Lite of Heaven,’ was published in 1994, and from there on, Strempek Shea knew she had found her calling.

Her collection now includes six works of fiction and 15 non-fiction works, ranging from a history of the Sisters of Providence, which she co-wrote with husband Tom Shea, and her latest, ‘This is Paradise,’ chronicling the story of an Irish woman motivated by her son’s drowning to build a health clinic in a tiny village in Malawi, Africa, where he died swimming.

Strempek Shea said her early efforts at marketing herself were driven by a need to make herself stand out in the competitive world of publishing, and were inspired by many ideas from her creative mother, Julie Strempek.

“My mother had a lot of smart ideas that I used, like serving food of having some kind of theme at my book readings that related to the book, or sending out postcards,” she said.

Among Strempek Shea’s many marketing tools are:

  • An ongoing mailing list that she uses to send out post cards with every new book, often with reading dates on the back.
  • Thank-you notes – handwritten, and frequent. She is known to send personal notes of gratitude to people for attending her book events and talks.
  • Email list – Strempek Shea has an extensive email list that is constantly growing and being updated.
  • Social media – She regularly promotes herself as well as author friends, acquaintances and favorites on Facebook and Twitter.
  • A professional website that includes links to interesting sites, and a personal blog.
  • Reach-outs to potential readers, including Polish-American clubs and churches for her books that feature that culture, and Protestant churches around the country for ‘Sundays in America,’ a chronicle of her one year attending a service in a different church every week.
  • Special effects – When Strempek Shea was promoting her book ‘Hoopi Shoopi Donna,’ about an all-female accordion band, she brought her own red accordion from her childhood and played tunes at her events. She also wore sandals identical to those shown on the cover. When ‘Becoming Finola’ was released in 2004, Strempek Shea took advantage of a main character’s job as a jewelry designer to make and sell themed bracelets and earrings. When selling ‘This is Paradise,’ she often travels with Mags Riordan, the subject of that book, and sells bags and items made in Chembe Village, Cape Maclear, where the clinic operates. She also donates half of her profits to the cause.

“You do whatever you can think of,” she advised. “You realize that if you don’t do this, maybe no one will. There’s no one who is as enthusiastic or cares more about your work than you are.”

Students said they were much impressed by Strempek Shea’s talk.

“It was very informational,” said Aaron Yates.

“I liked her a lot. I liked how she takes her personal life and puts it into her books. And I like how she puts herself out there to get the job done.”