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IBPA Member Paul Parkinson Lands TODAY Interview

Thursday, January 30, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Christopher Locke
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Unselfish Kids authors, Paul & Sammie Parkinson (third and fourth from the left) are pictured with TODAY hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager and three kids who are featured in the book, Jayden Perez, Ella Tyron, and Liam Hannon (left to right).

Landing an interview on a national television show is incredible visibility for a new book, so Unselfish Stories founder Paul Parkinson was quite pleased to learn that he and his daughter Sammie Parkinson (who co-authored the book, Unselfish Kids, and is the Director of Marketing at Unselfish Stories) had been invited as guests on TODAY—one of the biggest morning shows in the country. How did they attain this coveted interview?

“We knew we had a very relevant and timely message,” says Paul. “We purposefully released the book on Giving Tuesday—the day following the biggest commercialized days of the year: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday was created years ago as a counterbalance to these days, and we felt the message of the book went right along with the spirit of that day. We had been referred to a book publicist team (David Ratner PR - Boston / Amy Franklin PR - New York), and enlisted their help. It didn’t take long for them to get a ‘yes’ from TODAY, which again speaks to the timeliness and importance of the message of Unselfish Kids.”

Paul was also pleased with how the Dec. 3 segment went (click here to watch). “The interview went very well,” says Paul. “The producer of the segment did such an amazing job putting together the story, which included three of the children from our book.”

Apparently, viewers agreed that the interview went well, because according to Paul, there was “a tremendous uptick in sales” right after their appearance.

Unselfish Kids by Paul and Sammie Parkinson

The story of how Unselfish Kids came to be goes back to 2015 when Paul wrote Unselfish – Love Thy Neighbor As Thy Selfie. Paul explains that the book “contains ninety-nine stories and photos of people serving their fellow man. A few years later, my daughter Sammie was a student in college, and felt like she wasn’t learning all she wanted to learn and wanted to gain some experiences outside of the classroom. Subsequently, she did humanitarian trips to Thailand and Fiji. In 2018, she did some work with some inner-city kids in Los Angeles. After that experience, she asked me what she could do to keep having these same types of positive experiences and to be able to use her marketing/design talents. That’s when we jointly came up with the idea of Unselfish Kids. We spent the next 18 months working together on the book.”

Unselfish Stories has more books in the works that they’ll be announcing soon.

Three Questions with IBPA Member Paul Parkinson

IBPA: Did you and Sammie use a media coach to help you prepare for the interview?

Paul Parkinson (PP): We didn’t enlist a formal coach. David Ratner and Amy Franklin from our PR team gave some tips on what to wear, potential questions, etc., but we really didn’t have any formal training. We sort of felt all along that we should be ourselves, put the spotlight on the kids, and the message would take care of the rest.

IBPA: Can you list three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?


  1. Follow your heart. Because you are independent, you get to tell the story the way you want it told and in a way that is exactly what you envision.

  2. Surround yourself with good people who augment the work. For example, teaming with Sammie, who has so many talents, was critical. I also had an excellent designer who I hired (David Miles).

  3. Independent publishing continues to gain ground. Having an independently published book on TODAY is evidence of this.

IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of Independent Book Publishers Association?

PP: Finding IBPA has been one of the best finds for me in this journey. The education programs (metadata, etc.) have been extremely valuable. I have been able to learn many technical details of the process as well. I had a few other questions and was able to connect with IBPA staff and gain answers quickly. They have also provided opportunities for marketing I was not aware of (libraries, etc.). IBPA is a tremendous resource for independent authors and publishers.

IBPA: Thank you, Paul, for sharing your story with the IBPA community!

Click here to learn more about Unselfish Stories.

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