What began in the basement of a New Jersey home in 2003 has blossomed into a successful parenting empire for Jen Singer. She is the founder of an award-winning web site, MommaSaid.net, creator of the national holiday Please Take My Children to Work Day and author of several parenting books including the Stop Second- Guessing Yourself series and You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either).
~ You are on an inspirational journey sharing humor and insightful parenting advice through a variety of outlets. When you started in your basement back in 2003, what did you have in mind for your business? Are you heading in that direction or has your business plan changed over the years?
I was one of the original mommy bloggers. I started MommaSaid to help build an audience for future books, because my occasional essay in Woman’s Day and Parenting weren’t, I felt, enough to building a regular following. Plus, it was a relief to find out that other mothers felt like I did that perhaps spending your days pulling graham crackers out of the VCR and chasing toddlers through parking lots was, let’s say, “challenging.”My business plan has changed as MommaSaid has grown. Every step, from the first book to my fifth, from my first spokespersonship to appearing on TV on behalf of S’mores, has warranted changes and tweaks to my original plan.
~ Through national media appearances on ABC's World News Now, NBC News, CBS The Early Show, the CBS Evening News as well as radio shows including Sally Jessy Raphael Talk Net and XM's Take Five, your name has an almost iconic familiarity. It’s amazing! Can you share with us some of your tips for getting on the media radar?
Together with my publicist Robin Blakely (author of “PR Therapy”), I spend a good amount of time courting the media. I answer Profnet and HARO (Help a Reporter Out) leads, and Robin pitches print, radio and TV outlets. The key is to give great quotes and sound bites that journalists and producers can use, and to provide insights and, in my case, humor.
~ While you were building name recognition for your writing, how did you market your skills? Did you volunteer to write parenting columns, use business cards or submit queries to magazines? How do you suggest new writers build name recognition?
Honestly, I let my writing speak for itself. Editors want to see completed essays, especially humorous ones, rather than pitches. So I figured that if I’d done the work, I might as well aim high. The first essay I wrote I sent to an editor at Woman’s Day who called me to tell me I had “wonderful flair.” She had something similar in inventory, but bought my next essay. Having that high profile clip gave me credibility when I approached other editors.
Plus, I was writing for MommaSaid all along, so editors could drop by my site and check out my writing. It’s a good thing I kept up my blog for so long, because I was able to show that I could sustain a blog for a long period of time. That helped me sell my blog, “Good Grief: A Tale of Two Tweens,” which ran on Good Housekeeping.com for two years. If you want to build name recognition, write often and write well, even if it’s just on your own blog. Continue to submit well targeted queries and essays to magazine editors, providing them with clips of your published works. Be persistent, but not annoying. And be patient.
~ How do you keep track of your writing income and expenses? Do you use a software program or record transactions on paper?
I’ve always used an Excel spreadsheet to manage submissions and rejections and online banking to keep track of the money.
~ Your new series of books, Stop Second Guessing Yourself, are filled with “real-world, mom-tested tips”. Can you share one of your favorite tips from the first book, The Toddler Years? “If you’re having one of those days where your inquisitive toddler’s incessant questions feel like they’re burning holes in your brain, initiate No Question Zones, where, for example, she’s not allowed to ask you ‘What dat?’ through all of Hallmark.”
Jen’s warm conversational writing style and sense of humor make me feel as if I’m catching up with a friend. That connection is a breath of fresh air and is not easy to find these days. To learn more about Jen and her family, you can visit her at Mommasaid.net. I encourage you to sign up for her online newsletter as well. Her books are all available through Amazon.com.