Shea Megale is 14-year-old author of a successful book series called Marvelous Mercer; but she is no ordinary girl. Shea has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a paralyzing disease that has left her with limited arm strength and compromised motor skills. To help her get around more independently, Shea has a companion dog named Mercer. Mercer knows 60 commands that include turning on lights and opening doors.
Shea‘s first book began as several entries in her diary that her mother Megan discovered. They were sketches and stories of Mercer the dog ice skating and doing other activities; all depicted in great detail by a little girl who never would be able to do enjoy any of these activities. However, she was experiencing them through her dog — and her imagination. Her mother was so moved by the incredible stories and the meaning behind them that she vowed to get Shea’s works published.
But getting a book to market and then publicizing it is no easy task; especially with no extra money to support this venture. While the Megales managed to find a family member to illustrate the book, they realized that promoting it would be the key to success. Friends told Megan that USA Today should run a story on Shea and her book; but getting through to the right person at the right time can be extremely difficult at large media outlets. The key is getting the media to pay attention. So Megan did some research, and found out that the editor was originally from New York.
“We lived 5 miles from the USA Today headquarters,” Megan said. “Knowing that New Yorkers in the Washington DC area sometimes miss Carvel ice cream, I drove to Carvel, bought some ice cream and had them write on the top ‘PLEASE CALL ME.’ I drove the ice cream to the gate and delivered it as if I was a courier. I knew they would have to deliver it immediately to the editor to whom it was addressed; otherwise it would melt. The editor called me 10 minutes later.” The following Saturday Shea and her book were featured in a two-page spread in USA Today.
Megan has used other unique approaches to get her daughter’s book into famed Manhattan toy store FAO Schwartz, and partner with Build-A-Bear workshop stores. Instead of taking normal channels, Megan walked directly into the FAO office in New York and left with a deal. She also wrote a letter to Build-A-Bear Founder and Chief Executive Maxine Clark after reading Clark’s book. Clark responded; and very shortly afterwards, they had worked out the details for a partnership.
Reaching out personally has been the key to Megan’s ability to form the partnerships necessary to get the word out about Shea’s books. No matter how great the books are and how impactful Shea’s story is, no one knows about any of it until Megan and Shea form partnerships with powerful allies. Proceeds from all the books help support Spinal Muscular Atrophy research and Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that provides highly trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities free of charge. Book sales have contributed more than $600,000 to these charities.
Consider the methods that Megan Megale used to get in touch with the people she knew would support her daughter’s remarkable project. What are some innovative ways you can target and reach your potential advocates? I think about it every day.
This story brought tears to my eyes, but overall brought a smile to my face.