Regardless of how well a book is written, critical praise doesn’t always translate into sales, and often even well-reviewed books disappear, out-of-print within a couple of years. No matter how much publicity and support your publisher offers, you are the best advocate for your book, and there are actions you can take to prolong its life in print.
Perhaps you’re about to publish a first book and have no idea what to expect. Maybe you’re a seasoned pro looking for new ideas on promoting your books.
- Begin laying the groundwork for your book promotion six months before your book is published. Write a press release, and e-mail it to newspapers and TV stations closer to the publication date along with a review or two if you have them. If newspapers have a lifestyle editor or a Sunday team reach out to them as well. Keep contacts of reporters and remember to invite them to signings and other events.
- Find a public relations ally. If you can’t hire one then barter. Find a friend or a student and you offer to edit their stories and novels for free (forever) in exchange for helping you do publicity. This may sound extreme, but book publicity can be grueling work and it helps so much to have a friend with a sense of humor who “gets it.”
- Use the internet, search engines are your friend. Read up as much as you can and look at comments and reviews to find tips about sites you should be reading up on. Check out writing groups and ask for assistance or information on who can help you with your publishing journey.
- Make flyers and/or bookmarks. Start with 100 copies. You can leave stacks in bookstores, restaurants and libraries or hand them out on school visits. Always be prepared with something to hand out.
- Set up a website where parents and children can write to you and learn more about the world of the book and what you do as an author. Peruse other author sites to give you ideas.
- Update your website regularly. Offer creative writing ideas, story prompts and giveaways.
- Send out e-mail blasts as often as you feel comfortable, but don’t overdo it; three or four times a year is a good rule of thumb, and only if there are real updates. Be wary of e-mailing in bulk too often.
- Create your Facebook page long before the book is due. Post funny saying as well as other books so that you will have a following when your book is finally out that you can interact with. Don’t wait.
- Use Goodreads and Booklikes giveaway feature. Readers all over the world will add your book to their shelf hoping they will win a copy.
- Join a fiction writers or picture book listserv or online group. There is Goodreads Lovers of Diversity and Folklore Group, Facebook Groups Caribbean Writers, SCBWI Caribbean Chapters and SocaMom Book Club, follow the Anansesem Ezine, Caribbean Books Foundation and other Caribbean Blogs. Look for blogs about the world of children’s literature. There are many great children’s and YA book blogs. Clicking on one will lead you to many more. Children’s and young adult book bloggers are the ones who keep your books alive, ask them to feature you. Thank them. Send them your books to review, but only devote a little time each day to these blogs; you want to be protective of your writing time.
- Create your own book tour by visiting literary festivals. Stay with friends and family and make yourself available to promote your book with copies on hand. Rent the cheapest rental car and purchase airline tickets through inexpensive online travel sites.
- Visit bookstores before your book comes out—six months is a good rule of thumb. Set up e-mail correspondence with the store manager, or the person in charge of scheduling their author visits or promotions. Over the next few months, set up dates for the book signings/writing workshops. If you just have a handful of giveaways, make photocopies or send a pdf to select book reviewers. This especially works well for regional newspapers or magazines. Smaller papers do a great job of author profiles and reviews if you let them know in time.
- E-mail bookstores with your information (book, website, jacket quotes) and follow up those e-mails with store-visits or phone calls. Explain how you are able to offer short writing workshops for kids instead of just traditional readings. Hint: Be upbeat and professional even when clerks can and will be indifferent. You will find the ones who get you, and as for the ones who don’t, move on with grace. Try to focus on the independent bookstores because they are the ones who will hand-sell your book and may have a small sitting are for you to interact with the children.
- Set up writing workshops for children in schools, libraries, and bookstores. Lead a guaranteed audience of children in writing their own stories and poems. Make sure art supplies are on hand so the kids can illustrate their creations, and offer to publish any stories that they e-mail you in a special section of your blog or website. The fee for attendance? Have the bookstore require the purchase of one of your books to participate in the writing workshop. Talk to the parents and teachers who attend. Networking can lead to “artist-in-residencies” at schools and more school visits. Keep writing workshops high-energy: MORE participation. Get kids excited through sincere praise, and encouragement, and then up on their feet to read their poems or stories. With older kids and teen groups, smaller circles work best.
- Consider having a reading/book signing at a place other than a bookstore. Go to a pizza parlour, a fast food restaurant with a children’s area, a tea house or some other nontraditional place. A friend’s backyard or your own if you like. An independent bookseller will love to sell books, and you’ll be able to woo more friends into coming and bringing their friends. If you have children, your children can run around and celebrate too. Hire or sponsor an up and coming musician for the gig and let them give out their cards or CD’s.
- Do as many free writing workshops as you feel you can at first. Do them for foster children, children in juvenile hall, children who are differently-abled – children who don’t have a chance to meet with writers. Publish their stories on your blog if they want you to do so.
- Pitch workshops or classes to your Library, Universities or a school near you. It’s free advertising for you and your book and your class. You also get to meet wonderful students in your workshop.
- Set up a six- or ten-week writing workshop at a local library for teens or adults wanting to write children’s stories. You will be able to charge, of course, and the bookstore will advertise the class and your book on its website and in its newsletter.
- Go support other authors. Show up at their signings and readings and buy their books. Host them in interviews on your website or blog, or simply mention their books in a short review. We’re all in this together, and the more we can reach out and support each other, the more we’ll get back.
- Send your press release to your old school, high school, or college. Offer to meet with students from your alma mater to talk to them about writing.
- Write an essay for your alumni magazine about writing for kids, or about how you became a writer. You’ll get readers; universities like to hear about their graduates and their adventures. If a rural library asks you to donate books, say yes. Say yes as much as you can. Just do it. If you can’t do it all the time, that’s okay, but say yes whenever possible.
- Write an essay/op. ed. piece for a newspaper with a large readership. This will get your name out to more readers.
- Record your book at your local Braille Institute, if you have one and offer to do a workshop at its summer reading program. You’ll meet amazing kids who are budding storytellers.
- Go to events. Go to SCBWI events or book festivals on your own dime at least once if you have a book coming out. If they cannot offer you a signing during the festival go and meet people. It’s worth it. You will make connections you cannot make e-mailing from home. Tight budget? Stay with friends and family to save money, or contact the SCBWI regional advisor in your area to see if a nearby member might have a guest room available.
- Find a local chapter of the SCBWIand offer to do a workshop on setting, plot, voice or anything else.
- Write thank-you notes to everyone: librarians, teachers, booksellers. Be appreciative. Don’t whine. Say “thank you.”
- Get a GPS navigation device. It really helps out there on the road. Remember, the more you give of yourself as an author, the more you will connect with your readers at every level.
- Keep writing. The more books you market the easier it becomes. Keep, keeping on. Give yourself a break and time to be alone to write and just be, so you can gather the stamina needed to get out there again.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a non-profit organization, is one of the largest existing organizations for writers and illustrators. It is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. Its mission is to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books around the world.
We accomplish this by fostering a vibrant community of individuals who bring books for young readers to the public including writers, illustrators, translators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers, bloggers, enthusiasts and others. We provide education and support for these individuals and the community through our awards, grants, programs and events. We strive to increase the quality and quantity of children’s books in the marketplace, and act as a consolidated voice for writers and illustrators of children’s books worldwide. Membership in the SCBWI is open to anyone with an active interest in children’s literature from picture books to young adult novels. We welcome aspiring and published writers and illustrators, librarians, educators, artists, students, dramatists, musicians, filmmakers, and others. A passion for children’s literature is our #1 criterion.
In the Caribbean there are two regions Caribbean North and Caribbean South visit the website at www.scbwi.org for more information.
Marsha Gomes-Mckie, Regional Advisor, Caribbean South, SCBWI (Adapted from SCBWI’s tips.