Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Perfect PR Recipe

I spend a lot of time thinking about what will “break” a book—what does it take to bring a book to not only its fullest potential, but also the next level? I wish there was a direct answer, but something I’ve learned over my almost 3 years with Sourcebooks is that each book and author is different, but by starting out small and (sometimes slowly) building upwards and outwards, world domination is just around the corner.

For example, when I started in late 2007, we had 2 romance novels (Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake by Laurie Brown and No Regrets by Michele Ann Young) and 1 Georgette Heyer novel (Cotillion) in stores. Now, Sourcebooks Casablanca publishes 5-8 mass market romance novels each month, by February 2012 we’ll be the North American publisher of all of Heyer’s novels (including a rare reprint of her book of short stories!), and we’re home to authors who are trying new things in the romance genre, not to mention a fun and busy group blog where you can find so many of them in one place! And did I mention award-winning? Just last week we found out we have FOUR RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice nominees (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!):

Best Regency-Set Historical Romance
Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale

Best Historical Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
The Fire Lord's Lover by Kathryne Kennedy

Best Historical Fiction
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Best Historical "Knight in Shining Silver" (or Best Historical Hero)
Armand Harcourt from The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen

Just like a lot of recipes that you go back to year after year, when you give that recipe to a friend or family member, it just tastes different. One of the most fulfilling, and yet challenging, things about my job is figuring out what works for each and every one of our authors (and there are 30+ of you!). There are certain basics that will never change—so don’t get any funny ideas that I’m not going to put you on a blog tour during your pub month—but those new and unexpected things that happen every day are always interesting to explore!

And now—a recipe that I stole from my mother (affectionately known around these parts as Mama Jackson), and modified ever so slightly—don’t tell her, but I think my way is better  Honestly, I don’t even like pumpkin pie (or pumpkin anything really, aside from pumpkin seeds), but I’d roll around in a tub of this. It has become my go-to dessert to bring to Fall and Holiday parties, and the general consensus is a long “mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.” Enjoy!

Pumpkin Smush Cake

- 1 15 oz. can of pumpkin pie filling (not just pumpkin puree—pumpkin pie filling, there’s a difference. Most of the time, I can only find the pumpkin pie filling in the 30 oz. size, and will use about 3/4 of the can... no need to adjust the rest of the recipe, because it's a lovely pumpkinny flavor. The brand is Libby's.)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (You can buy this, but it’s one of those pricey spices that comes in a tiny little jar… I just make a mix of equal parts nutmeg and cinnamon and a bit of ginger, to counter all of the sweetness)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk (not condensed!)
- 1box yellow cake mix (any will do—I generally buy what's on sale)
- 2 sticks of butter
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I put WAY more than this, probably around a cup or a cup and a half; the nuts add a texture to the dessert that I find entirely necessary to have across all of it)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Grease a 9x13 pan
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together pumpkin pie filling, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, salt and evaporated milk
- Pour mixture into greased pan
- Sprinkle cake mix over top of mixture (some will seep into the mixture—this is ok)
- Melt butter; drizzle melted butter over top of mixture
- Sprinkle nuts on top
- Bake for one hour, or until toothpick comes out clean (because I use a bit more pumpkin filling, I usually have to let it back for an hour and ten minutes or so)
- Serve warm or cold with whipped cream (you can be an overachiever like me and make your own! Oooooor you can just buy it [lame])


  1. Thanks for the post Danielle, very pertinent especially for this author currently building (hopefully) upwards and outwards.

    Massive congrats to the award nominees.

  2. Congrats to our four finalists, and thanks for a recipe I am going to try--it looks different and yummacious.

  3. The cake sounds great, Danielle! I'll have to try it!

  4. I'll have to keep this for next year since I'm not cooking this Thanksgiving, and with a deadline, day job, and upcoming blog tour, I have enough on my plate as it is.

  5. We're so glad to have you behind us, Danielle. The recipe sounds like something I would love and so easy, which is a requirement for me since I don't like to cook. I do like pumpkin pie, and my mother in law makes incredible pumpkin bread. The past two years I've taken the seeds from the kid's Halloween pumpkins and slow roasted them sprinkled with sugar and some nutmeg. They were really dry but I liked them and I ate a ton. My stomach paid for it later :)

    Congrats to our RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice nominees.

  6. Congrats to all the finalists and thanks, Danielle, for the recipe. I think I'm going to have Twinkle Toes make it this weekend. It sounds so great!

    Send my love to Mama Jackson and have a very happy Thanksgiving.

    Robin :)

  7. Sounds like the perfect potluck recipe: short ingredient list, no fancy equipment needed, and a sure crowd pleaser.

  8. I have no idea how you keep up with all of us, Danielle. You rock! And I think this recipe sounds like it rocks, too. I might actually have to bake. Something I never do.

    Congratulations to the nominees. I hope you all win!

  9. You guys are up early! Thanks for all the comments :) Honestly, please tell me how your pumpkin smush cakes turn out-it's a recipe I LOVE to share and it so easy. It looks a littel funny, but the taste is what matters.

    Per usual, to anyone who has any general book PR questions, I'll check in the comments throughout the day!

  10. Congratulations to all those who made RT, and good luck to all of us who are trying!!! :) Looks like a delicious recipe, and I always love your stories, Danielle!

    I'm back on the blog tour this month and next, and my question to you is how do we come up with some DIFFERENT ideas? Interviews often ask similar questions, so more recently I've been trying to figure out a different way to answer them without making it sound like the same thing, yet being honest too. Any suggestions? :)

  11. Congratulations to our RT finalists! And OMG, Danielle - that cake sounds fabulous. [PRINT]

  12. Danielle, thanks for taking all of us onward and upward! I don't know how you manage it with so many authors. Don't you ever get the cowboys confused with Regency rakes?
    Congrats to the finalists! And thanks for the recipe. Sounds much better than pumpkin pie to me!

  13. Thank you for the congrats, everyone! And I would like to add my best wishes for the finalists as well. Truly, though, I'm up against one of my favorite authors, so I'm just happy to be nominated at all.
    Thank you for all you do to promote our books, Danielle! I know you work very hard, and it's very much appreciated!

  14. Terry--great question! many of you know I've started asking bloggers to send guest blogging topics, so that keeps things different in that sense, but when it comes to interivew questions, it's harder because most of them do ask you things very similar! The important thing is to NEVER copy and paste--even though it seems like such an easy thing to do, but there are those who follow you guys on your tours, and they'll notice... and some of them won't keep quiet about it!

    There are certain things that can stay the same--the HOOK--which Deb has explained to us all many a time (and yet still takes some time to understand--which is what makes YOUR book YOUR book, should stay the same. but if someone asks you who your favorite authors are, say you love to read a variety of authors and it's too hard to choose one, but talk about Cherry Adair on this blog and Julia Quinn on another. When they ask you what's next in your carreer, tell them about the books for next year and give the general gist, but maybe explain a different plot point (that isn't too revealing (mention your new research you're working on, or a returning character that readers might be interested in knowing about).

    Hope that helps a little bit!

  15. I want to make Pumpkin Smush Cake, just so I can tell people it's Pumpkin Smush Cake! What a great name!

    Thanks for all your hard work, Danielle. Don't think we don't know how hard you work for us!

  16. Love the post! And the advice ... and the recipe! The recipe looks yummy ... we love anything with pumpkin (A hug for Mama Jackson)!
    Congrat's to the four nominees. That's absolutely wonderful.

    I'm still in awe of all you do for us. THANK YOU seems so little but it is heartfelt.

  17. That cake does sound quite tasty, Danielle. I don't like to cook or bake. Can you just mail me your leftovers! :-)
    I always look forward to your posts.

  18. Hi Danielle! Love the recipe - sounds yummy! I also like that it's an easy-to-make recipe. My sister and niece are coming for Thanksgiving and I've got this at the top of my list to bake with little Frances. (My niece and I always have a tea party w/cake. :) Thanks for sharing.... and many thanks for all your hard work on our behalf!

  19. Such a great post. Inspiring to me as a new Sourcebooks author. Congrats to the nominees. I am thrilled to be among so much talent. And the cake looks great. Now I just need someone who won't mess it up to bake it for me!:)

  20. Thanks so much for posting this. Congrats to our finalists! I am definitely going to try that recipe. Yummy.