19 May The Bestselling Woman Behind What to Expect When You’re Expecting

What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Self-help Bestsellers

With all of the hoopla about the just released What to Expect When You’re Expecting movie, theJennifer Lopez and Cameron Diazfronted ensemble film, it is easy to forget the woman who started it all. Heidi Murkoff has sold more than 40 Million books yet she has no assistant, no product spinoffs and won’t accept advertising on her website. It is hard to even find a link to her books from the home page. This is hardly what we envision when we think of the woman behind the most successful book franchise in self-help history.

I had the chance to connect with the unassuming first lady of pregnancy yesterday. Murkoff’s two children, Emma and Wyatt, are now 29 and 26. She completed the first book when she was pregnant with Emma 30 years ago. When I ask Murkoff if she has achieved her dreams she responds, “I actually don’t think in terms of dreams – which sort of implies sitting around waiting to be visited by good fortune – I think in terms of missions.” Murkoff sees her mission clearly: to spread information to pregnant moms to be.

Word of Mom

Amazingly, Murkoff’s first book was not picked up by any chain book stores when it was first published in 1984 and it wasn’t marketed or advertised – at all. It took five years for the book to get any traction. Murkoff attribute’s the book’s eventual success to “Word of Mom.” She explains, “One mom would stumble upon the book, buy it, tell another mom, who would ask her local bookstore to order a copy, who would tell another mom, and another mom, until word spread, and spread, and spread.”

Not Motivated by Money

In an age when brands are hungrily seeking out every potential brand extension, Murkoff has rejected almost every new opportunity that comes across her desk: “I consider proposals and next steps not as a brand management but more as family planning. I’m a protective mom and I trust my gut – a gut that has only become more and more challenging as the years go by. When I run ideas through the gut check, it’s rare that anything survives. I surprised myself by giving in to the movie pitch, but it wasn’t without plenty of gut aches.”

Rewrites Each New Edition

Most authors see a new edition as a chance to add a new chapter or two, slap a new cover on and label it “new.” Not Murkoff. She writes each book from scratch, and says that the first edition doesn’t even resemble the fourth one. “I rewrote it cover to cover every time it has been revised.” Murkoff insists that this is essential because, “Pregnancy evolves, pregnant women evolve, and What To Expectevolves.”

Addicted to Social Media

“Happily, I have the best job in the world – and the very very best part of it comes every spare moment I get, when I can Facebook and Twitter with mom and a few select dad friends, answering questions and gobbling up yummy baby fixes. It’s fun, but it’s also one of the ways I’m able to keep my finger on the pregnant and new parent pulse. Erik (Murkoff’s husband) has to literally drag me, or often, carry me up to bed each night to get me away from Facebook and Twitter.”

There is No Team

Murkoff is, “embarrassed to admit” that she has no assistant. Her team consists of Erik (“Clearly he’s my partner, not my employee.”) and Sharon Mazel, who works with her on the books. It isn’t hard to assume that Murkoff would end up saying yes to more brand extensions if she had a bigger team around her. Despite her protests to the contrary, What to Expect is indeed a brand, a big one. The film is the first piece of the franchise that Murkoff has not fully controlled. Time will tell if it will be another bestseller.

Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author, media personality and speaker, passionate about helping working moms to design a successful and happy lifestyle. Connect with her at samantha@samanthaettus.com or @samanthaettus.

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Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author & corporate speaker. The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction will be released in September.