Guest Post: Debut Author M.L. Tarpley on Marketing and School Visits During COVID-19 and Maylie and the Maze Giveaway

 Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author M.L. Tarpley here to share a guest post to celebrate her debut MG contemporary Maylie and the Maze. It sounds like a great summer travel adventure story that many kids will relate to.

FYI, this is my last post of 2020. I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season. I'm looking to seeing you in 2021 and already have a fantastic schedule of debut author interviews and guest posts with their agents, book giveaway hops, and agent spotlight interviews to share with you.

Here's a blurb  of Maylie and the Maze from :

Will Maylie’s dream be crushed by her own imagination?

Ten-year-old Maylie Montes’s dream is to become an author, but she has a problem. She can’t finish a story. Not a single one.

Her second problem is Camden, her annoying twin brother, who is determined to ruin their summer traveling through Europe with their famous photographer aunt and spunky grandma.

The first stop is England where a castle and maze, a new British friend, and a lot of weird words await Maylie—but the first item on her itinerary is to learn how to write, so she can finally finish a story. However, this goal may land her a one-way ticket home after her writing targets her brother in a spooky story involving a nighttime maze full of monsters. And Camden has his own plans, leaving Maylie to wonder if her imagination has actually become a reality.

Follower News

Liesbet Collaert just released her memoir Plunge. Here's a blurb and a few links: 
Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a
sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.
The global link is . This should bring you to the Amazon site of your region.


For the US specifically: 

Sandra Cox also has a new release Gwen Slade. Here's a blurb and a few links:

Gwen Slade always gets her man until she bumps up against charming outlaw Jordie Kidd. Now all bets are off.

[u]M.L. Tarpley Guest Post

I asked M.L. to talk about her experiences marketing and doing school visits during the pandemic and give the rest of us advice on how to handle this. Here's M.L.!

Becoming a debut author is a shared time of triumph and worry. This book baby is finally going to be out in the world! Yes!!!

But then come all the what ifs and questions… Will it sell well? Receive great reviews? Secure attention from influencers and media? Land in-person book signings and speaking engagements?

Throw in the year 2020—and a lot of these concerns amplify literally twenty times. And somehow this year as a debut author we have to overcome so much more. Where do we even start?

I started by thinking outside the box.

For me, this challenge had to be met with the creativity and hard work and perseverance that got me to

“debut author” status after all. I thought long and hard about what marketing could look like with the concerns and restrictions. I studied what other authors were doing and how I could do that too. I had to figure out how to effectively reach my audience on a strictly virtual platform.

Here are the things I’ve done this year to launch and market my debut release in 2020:

I started a YouTube channel to post my book trailer and my reading of the first chapter along with book reviews and more. I also had an engaging and attractive website created to send people to so they can learn more about my book and me.

With book signings and events at physical bookstores not a possibility, I sold hundreds of signed copies from my home office (just call me the book fairy lol) and will in the near future sell them and other book swag from my Square shop. I also partnered with a nearby independent bookstore to sign their stocked books as well as in future to arrange the fulfillment of book orders for schools, etc. through them and have the books shipped straight to the schools whether for a virtual or in-person visit. (If your local indie bookstore is willing, you can mask up and social distance in a secluded back room while signing their stock and any large books being shipped out.)

Many book release parties have been virtual for years now, so I planned mine out in detail and asked the book’s illustrator to be my guest. She readily agreed and even played a hilarious LIVE game of Pictionary with me—though I made her use her non-dominant hand (ha!). I geared the party games to my book’s setting and characters, held giveaways for signed books and original art and used BeLive Studio 2 technology for our dual LIVE video.

Another focus this year was revamping my newsletter to include featured activities, crafts and writing prompts for kids because the need for more home activities was there.

And even though libraries have been closed so much this year the library staff are still working and therefore books are still purchased. I had a postcard designed that featured my book and the bio for me and the illustrator on the back as well as letting the recipient know how the book is available for purchase. Then, I started mailing out the postcards to every main branch library in my state, the multiple libraries in our cities and then I started sending them out to libraries and bookstores beyond our state and region. I am also reaching out to libraries and bookstores to ask if I can mail them promo bookmarks.

Another idea for outreach during the pandemic is to hold online writing classes for kids and/or post video lessons on YouTube and social media about writing. Parents and educators love any resource you can offer them. I am currently working on these resources.

In regard to author visits, I developed virtual presentations that I offer to schools for much lower fee than in-person visits. I also plan to do a limited amount of 20-minute virtual author Q&A sessions. I do think it is a good idea to record yourself doing an author Q&A and post it on YouTube and other social media platforms, so educators and parents will have it as a resource, and hopefully want to book you for a virtual author visit. Author Kate Messner has some great examples of virtual author visit offerings on her website here:

A huge marketing tool that I believe many authors underutilize is Goodreads. It is THE social media platform for avid readers and book lovers and EXACTLY where we as authors need to be engaged and up-to-date online. The first step is to simply claim your books and fill out your author profile. Be engaging and show your personality.

I learned a lot about using Goodreads from Author Alessandra Torres’s YouTube channel here:

I make a point to always add books I’m reading and review them as well as use the updates and blog features. I’ve posted my book trailer and chapter one read aloud videos there too. I interact with my followers and friends and like and comment on their reviews. I have connected with beta readers and bloggers through this site. I plan to do a Goodreads giveaway before the second book in my series releases to promote that first book. If you are not on Goodreads or haven’t been active, please get on there! That site is where readers are, specifically the educators and family members of our readership.

Marketing a book always has its challenges—whether it’s 2020 or not. I hope some of the above suggestions will help you to think outside the box and better market your books now and in the coming year.

How have you thought outside the box this year in regard to marketing your book(s) and outreach to schools and other entities? I would love to hear your suggestions!

Author M.L. Tarpley writes stories of adventure, friendship, and fun that transport kids to amazing places across the world. She is also an award-winning journalist and world traveler. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her other interests include hanging out at cool coffee shops, listening to vintage records, going on adventures with her family, and researching dead people in her family from long ago (*cough* it’s called genealogy). She lives in Louisiana with her husband and son. Maylie and the Maze is her debut novel. For more information about her, visit

Purchase Link:

Giveaway Details

M.L. has generously offered a signed paperback of Maylie and the Maze for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by December 26th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.[/b]

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

 Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his .

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways
Saturday, January 2nd I'll be participating in the January 2021 of Books Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, January 6th I have an interview with debut author Olivia Chadha and a giveaway of her YA dystopian Rise of the Red Hand and my IWSG post

Monday, January 11th I have an interview with debut author Caroline Gertler and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Many Points of Me

Monday, January 18th I have a guest post by debut author Dana Swift and her agent Amy Brewer and a query critique giveaway and book giveaway of Dana's YA fantasy Cast in Firelight 

Wednesday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tricia Skinner and query critique giveaway

Monday, January 25th I have an interview with debut author Chrystal Giles and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Take Back the Block

Wednesday, January 27th I have an interview with author Gita Trelease and a giveaway of Everything That Burns as part of her blog tour

Have a great holiday! Hope to see you on Friday, January 1st!