By Nanette Perrotte B.M. ’91
This is the opening scene of my audiobook and e-book, Ella Jane the Jazzy Cat—An Ella Fitzgerald Fable. The book, written for 6- to 12-year-old students, is a fable based on the life of vocal master Ella Jane Fitzgerald. I also composed an original tune “Ella Jane the Jazzy Cat—Twist, Spin, Jump Jive.”
I was telling a short version of Ella Jane in my preschool music classes, but needed an opportunity to hear the story independent of the improvisatory nature of telling live in a classroom. I chose to practice in front of a group of adult storytellers who meet monthly to practice stories they are working into their repertoire. Standing in front of this audience and telling, not singing as I had done my while life, was one of the scariest moments of this experience. As the poet Emily Dickinson asked: Do my lines sing?
The storyteller’s perspective is also one of tone, phrasing, imagery—exactly what I know as a vocalist expressing a lyric.
Having a group of seasoned professional storytellers critique my fable was so valuable. The storyteller’s perspective is also one of tone, phrasing, imagery—exactly what I know as a vocalist expressing a lyric. This storytelling practice would help later when I recorded the audio. By recording time, I had practiced in the classroom, in my car and, in front of the storytellers, so I had the line phrasing and voices all worked out. To record the audiobook, I used a Blue Yeti mic into GarageBand.
Putting It Together, Bit by Bit: Technical Aspects
I envisioned Ella Jane the Jazzy Cat—An Ella Fitzgerald Fable as a digital product. Making an e-book was something I had done before, and thankfully the technology has improved by leaps and bounds since my first effort. The hardest part was page layout, getting text to flow from page to page and since I had illustrations, inserting them at facing pages. My illustrator formatted and sized her images to work in e-books which saved me a ton of layout battles.
How would customers get my product? The e-commerce platforms I used initially were Gumroad and teacherspayteachers.com, both easy to set up. Early on in this part of the project, I discovered folks want to know where they are entering their credit card info. An aspiring e-commerce site like Gumroad wasn’t something they knew and sales flickered until I made the switch to selling on Amazon. I stayed on the Teachers Pay Teachers site since it was working well for that audience, and then reformatted the audiobook, Kindle, and song of Ella Jane onto the digital shelves of Amazon, iTunes, and Amazon Music.
Launching with Swing
I started hinting about Ella Jane the Jazzy Cat on my Facebook business page, which was already up and running from my LUX Lifestyle coaching business. I shelved the motivational quotes and started humming a jazzier tune. I uploaded pics of my pen and paper, listed favorite Ella tunes, did short video clips of me singing the hook of the song, posted pictures of my real cat Ella, artfully (and oh so patiently) posed on top of my piano. I posted snippets of real Ella Fitzgerald stories. My followers started to get the idea that something was brewing.
The bonus of building an online community is how followers become invested in the creative process.
Then two years after I started scribbling notes about the fable, up went my Nanette Perrotte author page on Facebook. The cat was out of the bag!
Folks jived right into this group confirming that I had developed something of interest. The bonus of building an online community is how followers become invested in the creative process. They are with you through the ups and downs and when it comes time to buy, buy they will!
My Instagram has a younger demographic, aged 20-35. To avoid being the dreaded sales person, I used Instagram Stories to catalogue my daily work and how I was feeling creatively. I do exceptionally well on video, so Instagram Stories provides a way of connecting in a tone and style that this demographic connects with.
Friends and family only go so far. After the first round of excitement that came with the release, having a healthy ego comes into the mix. Once your nearest and dearest have made their purchase, then it’s up to you to stay the course and keep sales going! My goal behind this project was for Ella Jane the Jazzy Cat to be in every kid’s life. A lofty, love-filled goal, but the reality is that it means marketing: looking at the calendar for opportunities to promote Ella Jane the Jazzy Cat, such as Jazz History month, Women’s History month, and Ella’s birthday (April 25, 1917). Writing online articles and presenting at libraries and schools are also a large part of sustaining the life of the project.
The value of my email list, culled over six years has turned into a steady stream of purchases. Developing a targeted social media storyline is also a vital part of putting Ella Jane the Jazzy Cat out into the world and keep her in everyone’s mind. I understood from the beginning that this labor of love would take time to swing into a groove. I am in it for the long win: to place Ella Jane Fitzgerald in the ears and brains of kids for generations to come.
Nanette Perrotte B.M. ’91 is a jazz singer, jazz presenter, video coach, and CBD for women consultant. She was raised in Amsterdam, Holland, and Orlando, Florida, before attending Berklee (B.M. in Jazz Composition) with a principal instrument of voice. Perrotte’s M.A. in Education (Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts) focused her work on the arts as a tool to learn about and experience cultural diversity. In 2013, Perrotte founded LUX Lifestyle, a company offering women in mid-life online classes on food and fitness. In 2019, LUX launched a boutique line of French and Ecuadorian inspired beauty products: Méthode Ananda. Follow her on Facebook at Nanette Perrotte and Twitter/Instagram @NanettePerrotte.