April 13, 2022

The Seasonal Tie-Ins and Promotional Pairings Part of the Writing Life

It's hard to believe, but today marks the one year anniversary, or "book birthday" for Lucy's Blooms

On this date last year I shared a blog post entitled, "The Book Launch Part of the Writing Life," where I talked about the activities leading up to a book launch. Today's post is about creating opportunities for extending the book buzz beyond the initial launch through seasonal tie-ins and promotional pairings. 

The marketing copy on my publisher's website describes Lucy's Blooms as "a multigenerational story about a young girl who learns from her grandmother about the enduring nature of love, the strength in rejecting labels, and the wisdom of standing with those who are different." In the story, "the town's annual flower contest is coming soon, and a young girl puts her heart into growing a lively bunch of flowers she finds in a meadow. As her grandmother guides her in nurturing a garden, the girl learns that winning ins't the true reward—it's the special love found in caring for something or someone." 

These are the words that help booksellers and librarians make book buying and collection development decisions—but these words don't necessarily help a book get hand-sold, placed face out on a retail display, or incorporated into a library storytime. This is where seasonal tie-ins and promotional pairings can come in. 

I maintain a running list of potential promotional connections for each of my books. Some seasonal tie-ins (such as the spring equinox in March and Earth Day in April are easy to come up with. I broaden the list by browsing web-based resources such as the "There is a Day for That" calendar, the "Today is" calendar  and this list of national days, along with taking note of observances recognized by literacy organizations such as Every Child a Reader

There are quite a few different connections that can be drawn for most of my books, and although it's not reasonable for me to set a goal to amplify each tie-in every year, the running list of seasonal tie-ins and promotional pairings does help me maximize my promotional opportunities. 

Here is an example of my current running list for Lucy's Blooms and some examples of the promotions I developed to go along with some of the observances:

World Planting Day (March and October)

Dandelion Day (April 5)

Earth Day (April)

May Day (May 1)

Mother's Day (May)

Grandparents Day (September)

I also maintain a strong supply of book-related resources and enrichment materials here, including a robust collection of Pinterest boards with categories such as:

Grandparent’s Day

Earth Day and World Bee Day 

Kindness and Good Deeds

Fun Facts About Dandelions

Weeds: Metaphor for Resilience

Garden Tours, Virtual Visits, and Other Experiential Opportunities

Gardening with Kids

Gardening Tips and Info

Picture Book Pairings for Lucy’s Blooms

The past year has flown by faster than the seeds of a dandelion. Thank you to everyone who continues to read, share, and help Lucy's Blooms flourish and grow. 

April 6, 2022

Birth Stories for Books: A FRIEND FOR YOGA BUNNY, by Brian Russo

Hello readers! Today's edition of Birth Stories for Books is double the fun because it's from the perspective of an author/illustrator and it's about how a picture book sequel came to be. 

My guest is Brian Russo, author/illustrator of YOGA BUNNY (HarperCollins, 2016) and the sequel, A FRIEND FOR YOGA BUNNY, (HarperCollins, February 2022.)

So let's hop right to it. 

by Brian Russo

The Story of How Yoga Bunny 2: A Friend For Yoga Bunny Came to Be
by Brian Russo

I was working a graphic design job where I had a lot of down time. It had been several years since the original Yoga Bunny had been released. And I wasn’t sure if the publisher wanted a sequel. But, I loved the characters from that book, and I had time, so I thought up a new story and drew it. It was a parody of the movie ‘Step Up’, where Yoga Bunny and his friends’ turf is overtaken by a group of big bears, and they must have a ‘yoga-off’ to see who gets the spot.

I sent it to my friends over at HarperCollins and waited. 

Eventually they got back to me and said that while they didn’t want to do the story I had written, they were interested in doing another Yoga Bunny book, which was great! Lisa Sharkey, a Senior Vice President and Director of Creative Development at HarperCollins, pitched the story that would eventually become the new book, where Yoga Bunny meets a new friend struggling with anxiety. I suggested that the friend be a bear, because I liked the size difference between the bears and Bunny in my ‘Step-Up’ parody, and Lisa agreed (you can also read a version of this story from Lisa’s perspective over at my blog.) 

I put together another Dummy, and after a few more weeks of nervous waiting, HarperCollins came back with a formal offer to do another book. 

I was a dream come true at the time, because my incredible wife was pregnant, and about to give birth. We weren’t sure if I was going to be a stay at home dad or if we needed to send the baby to daycare after her maternity leave was over. We agreed that if I sold another book, I could quit my job and stay home with the baby. And so I did! 

This is going to sound petty, but… There are few pleasures greater than listening to your boss yell at you, knowing that in two weeks you’ll never see him again.  

Anyways, this was in the fall of 2019.

By the time we were starting production in the winter of 2020, the world was shutting down from COVID.

The first Yoga Bunny was done on watercolor paper that I brought into the HarperCollins office in NYC. But since I was now living in Utah, and we weren’t yet sure if mailing paper was going to be safe during the pandemic, Jeanne Hogle (my fantastic art director who was also on the first Yoga Bunny) and I made the decision to do all of the illustrations 100 percent digitally. 

So I bought an iPad! This was the first big purchase I made with my money from the advance, and it was pretty exciting! I never thought I’d be an iPad person, but man, I love this thing. And I’ve named him. His name is Theo. 

Anyways, I downloaded Procreate onto Theo, and spent a lot of time figuring out how to recreate the watercolor look of the first book with digital brushes. Jeanne and her assistant Chrisila Maida were really helpful during this process, and eventually I got it! The trick was layering, and then writing down the specifics of every layer so that I could recreate the process from page to page. 

Image from A Friend for Yoga Bunny, by Brian Russo

On the text side of things, I had a new editor on the sequel, Luana Horry, who was a total delight and rockstar. She suggested that the Bear character be female, which was really smart. She also helped a great deal in finding the right words when Bunny wants her to try yoga with him. We wanted Yoga Bunny to be a more proactive character here than he was in the last book, but we didn't want him to be pushy, or come off like a guru.

I’m really happy with what was eventually printed. 

Then, once we got going, it was just a lot of nights working on the illustrations after my son went to bed. One of the shows I enjoyed having on while illustrating was Earth to Ned on Disney Plus. It’s a talk show produced by the Jim Henson company, with very impressive alien puppets doing the interviews. And because of the format, there wasn’t a plot to follow, so it wasn’t too distracting. Highly recommended to all the Muppet fans out there.  

Really, my only complaint about the process of making a book like A Friend for Yoga Bunny is that I wish I could do it all the time. I love working with a small creative team, and I think the people I worked with are amongst the best in the world at what they do. And they’re very cool. I never minded getting notes or criticism, because everyone was so consistently level headed and professional about everything. 

Now that it’s over, I really miss it. There’s something so great about being part of a group and working towards a big creative goal. I’ll admit that I’m a little lonely without it.  

But, my wonderful agent, Sera Rivers, has sent a manuscript for Yoga Bunny 3 over to HarperCollins. And in a couple months, if this one sells enough, I may just get to do it again. 

Bunny ears crossed!   

Everything in children’s book publishing just takes a very long time. 

The funny thing about starting this book just as my son was born is how much I felt the time passage between when we finished, to when the book was released. As I was finishing up the art, my son was just starting to crawl. Now, as the book is being released, he’s running around, saying full sentences, and making sound arguments as to why it’s okay for him to eat dog food. 

Things have changed for my wife too. When I finished the art she was working as a teaching coach at a public elementary school. And now she’s been promoted to assistant principal, practically running the place! She also helped me design a Yoga Bunny educational poster, available as a free download on my website for all the teachers out there. Hearing from her what life has been like for teachers during the pandemic, they deserve a lot more than a free poster!

So yeah, that’s about all I have to say about the making of A Friend for Yoga Bunny. I’m so thrilled with how this book came out, and all the positive reviews it’s been getting. I hope you and your kids will be thrilled by it too, and also relaxed by the illustrations of Bunny and Bear doing yoga together :)


Thanks for sharing so many behind-the-scenes, details for A FRIEND FOR YOGA BUNNY, Brian. What an inspiration! (And readers, if you haven't yet followed the link that leads to the backstory for Brian's first book, YOGA BUNNY, it's a must-read, too!)

And as a reminder to all, the best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. I hope you'll consider heading on over to Bookshop or your favorite local indie and getting yourself a copy of one of Brian's beautiful books. Can't add another book to your own collection? Ask your local library (and/or your local yoga studio!) to include A FRIEND FOR YOGA BUNNY in their offerings and/or share this post with a friend.


Image Source: Brian Russo
Brian Russo has been drawing since he can remember. He grew up in Short Hills, New Jersey, then moved to New York, where he earned a degree from NYU. Afterwards, he discovered something he loves just as much as drawing: doing yoga. He earned a teaching certificate from Yoga to the People in 2010, during which time he developed the Yoga Bunny illustrations. He now lives in Lehi, Utah (the setting of the film Footloose) with his beautiful wife, Emily, adorable son, Quill, and loyal dog, Spike. His favorite film is Spirited Away, and the celebrity he'd most like to meet is 'Weird Al' Yankovic. 


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.