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Author Emily Liebert incorporated three exciting product collaborations in the areas of beauty, fashion, and jewelry, along with the release of her debut novel, You Knew Me When. Penguin published the book on September 3, 2013, and it has already sold more than half of its 25,000-copy first printing. As a seasoned writer, Liebert’s love for words draws an audience close with a relatable story plot, and even closer with the witty approach of merchandise partnerships. Not only is this strategy unique, it attracts greater press and increased sales for all parties. When I came across this news on “Live From The Couch” on CBS, I had to get the inside story. Here, Liebert opens up about brilliance behind the bookmark(eting).
To start, can you give us an insight to your new novel, You Knew Me When?
Absolutely. The story is about two best friends who were as close as sisters. Kitty Hill and Laney Marten grew up in Manchester, Vermont, as neighbors to a very wealthy woman, Luella Hancock. She became like a parent figure to Kitty, who lost her mother in a tragic accident. Right after they graduated from college, they had a huge falling out. Kitty left Vermont, moved to New York, and sort of ends up pursuing Laney’s dreams. Twelve years later, the book starts. You find out that Luella has left them her Victorian mansion. So Kitty, who then goes by Katherine, has to return home. She has to face Laney, who is still very mad, a love interest who she ran out on, and a family who she barely kept contact with for the last decade-plus. So the reader sees how they sort of try to mend these bonds that have been broken. The book goes back and forth between the past and the present. So it’s kind of nice to see how Laney and Katherine form their friendship in the first place, while you see them mend what has been broken. I think everyone has had a friend with a huge falling out, the way that Laney and Kitty did, or a love interest and you think oh I wish I could go back.
Focusing on the product collaborations, you’ve partnered with Zoya nail polishes, Meskita dresses and Dodo jewelry along with the novel launch. What sparked these ideas?
I just sort of know from experience. This is my first novel, but it’s my second book. My first book was Facebook Fairytales, which is a narrative non-fiction. I learned from that because it was such an easy book to get publicity for. It came out in 2010, when Facebook was exploding. And I knew, being a debut novelist, that you can’t just write a book and expect the world to learn and write about it. Magazines are not just going to write up my book, if it’s just my book, but they will if there’s a nail polish collaboration connected to it!
Can you describe how the main characters’ personalities relate to the Zoya nail polishes?
The two main characters, Laney and Katherine are both connected to the cosmetics industry so I originally thought it would be a fun way to gain publicity. So I went to approach companies to see if they would do a nail polish or a lipstick based off the novel. When I ended up picking Zoya, they had suggested doing a limited edition trio collection, [with each color] named after the three main characters. I also love that the polishes are made of non-toxic ingredients.
We knew that it would be coming out in the fall, and wanted really beautiful gem tone colors. We picked a classic red for Katherine. Actually in the book, there is a mention that she loves her Zoya nail polish. Red is a theme in her life. Her mother, who passed away, always wore bright red nails. They also had a red door in the new house she moved into. We picked purple color for Luella because she was very regal. The pretty jewel tone really embodies her. And we picked an emerald green for Laney because she was green with envy. That worked out perfect for her.
What was the process like working with Dodo?
The jewelry company graciously let me pick three of their charms, which all have these cheeky expressions that go with them, and I picked ones that best matched the characters’ personalities. The charms were also named after the ladies. All the charms are animals. I ended up picking the butterfly for Katherine, whose message is “I love my freedom”, the starfish for Laney, meaning, “Handle with care” and the angelfish for Luella, which means, “You work miracles.”
What are some of your future plans?
I just wrote my second novel, The Love That Lies Ahead, which is now in the editing process. It will come out in September 2014. I received a two-book deal when I finished writing You Knew Me When. I’ll be starting to write my fourth book, third novel. My publisher, Penguin Random House, just told me they want a book from me every 9 months to a year!
“You might have to take a risk. This guy, he’s designing these half vests with inverted patterns. I’m not a big fan of them, but he’s taking a risk,” says Ignacio Quiles, co-owner and founder of the haberdashery, QP & Monty. He holds out the vests for me to see. Singlehandedly, that one piece of clothing makes as much of a statement as the vintage store its perfectly housed in.
At the end of the day, the profit is passion. “You have to be creative, you may have to tell your story over and over, but never giving up is key. I don’t care if you’re 90 years old, you can learn from young people. You can learn from older people. Knowledge doesn’t have an age, it is what it is. People get all caught up in this stuff,” says Quiles. And for him, managing QP & Monty is one job he has in addition to styling, wardrobe consulting, designing the apparel line, Sartorial Pairings, restaurant consulting, as well modeling and television appearances. Now I see the spark in his vision; the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle all match together. But somehow, there are no specific amount of pieces in the box and that’s the beauty of it. Bizarre; just like the half vest.