Happy Agent Monday, everyone. These days, a writer not only needs to know how to write, but also how to promote their book once it’s published. Does this freak you out? Well, don’t panic. Today I’m excited to feature a guest post by our client, author and illustrator Miriam Glassman. She’s here to share marketing tips she wishes she’d known about before her first children’s book came out. Have some tips of your own? Please add to the discussion by leaving a comment. We look forward to seeing even more great tips. Now take it away, Miriam!
WOULDA, COULDA, SHOULDA: THE PROMOTION PUSH IN YOUR BOOK’S FIRST YEAR
Marketing–Ugh. Promotion–Ick. These words make most writers go boneless with exhaustion and queasy with uncertainty. How much should we expect the publisher to do? How much is on us? I knew my publishers’ marketing plans but still, what I really needed was someone grabbing me by the collar and shouting in my face: “Don’t count on us, toots. Selling that book is mostly up to you!” It’s true. I wish someone had impressed upon me the reality of how much was on me to get the word out, and the important role promotion plays in that first year. So now knowing what I do, let me grab you by the virtual collar and share a bit of what I’ve learned about getting a running start:
1. Ready on the Set: Before your book comes out, act as if the marketing department is a figment of your imagination. Create your own marketing plan. Brainstorm a list of organizations, blogs, local stores, libraries, schools, local newspapers and publications that should know about your book. Then actually contact them. Send a press release, a postcard, or a book trailer–whatever suits your style.
2. Is There a Refrigerator Magnet of My Book?: Don’t assume your publisher will create promotional materials for your book. If they aren’t, ask if they will reimburse you for any you create yourself. Chances are you’ll be doing that, anyway. So decide on your budget and what’s most worthwhile, whether it’s a book trailer, stickers, or…refrigerator magnets.
3. Know Thyself: What kind of promotional activities don’t make you want to fake laryngitis? Visiting schools and libraries, guest posting on blogs, leading a workshop at a conference? Pledge to do what best suits your personality. It will increase the chance of you actually doing it…and then doing it some more.
4. It’s All in the Timing: There’s this heady, precious window of time when reviews are rolling in, you’re giving readings, and someone is blogging about your book. Build on this. Reach out beyond Facebook to create a confluence of media, spreading the news to the bookstores, festival organizers, local news media, or whomever you feel should know about your book.
5. Selling Your Shiny New Book: Many schools will not sell your book if it’s only available in hardcover. This is a disappointing reality of school visits. Consider donating a copy to the school library, and hope that through all your other promotional efforts your book will go into paperback, which you then can sell at schools and book fairs.
6. Have I Got a Guide for You: Consider having a discussion and activity guide made for your book. Teachers and librarians really appreciate good supplemental materials, and having this can increase the chances of your book being used in a classroom or library book club. If you know an author who has a great discussion/activity guide, ask them who created it.
7. Appearing Next Week: Book launch aside, picture book authors/illustrators have an easier time bringing in a crowd than middle-grade and YA authors who have to compete with soccer practice and various older kid activities. Instead of a solo gig, try rounding up a couple of authors in your reader’s age range and present together. This works well for bookstores, too. And while you may not sell as many books, you’ll have a larger audience to learn about your book, and the pressure won’t be all on you.
8. I Wish to Go to the Festival!: There’s a bazillion book festivals out there. And many host a large assembly of authors and illustrators. Research those in your corner of the world, decide how far you’re willing to travel, and apply early. Most festivals plan many months ahead.
9. Let Me Be Your Tweetheart: Much as you’d love to, please don’t neglect this wing of social media. Librarians use it way more than you think, so the reach on Twitter can go way beyond your usual Facebook crowd. I understand how you feel. But seriously, just do it.
10. And Just as Important: Even if you feel like you could have done way more that first year, that’s no reason to now slip out of the room unnoticed. True, promotional activity buzzing around new titles can often make us feel like our own books are old news no one cares about. But guess what? Teachers, librarians, and kids really don’t care when your book came out! For them, discovering a story that they can connect to is what matters most. So rev up your promo mojo (without going crazy), and don’t stop working to help your stories find their way into the hearts of new readers. Because like the hokey-pokey, that what’s all about…right?
Miriam Glassman (miriamglassman.com) is the author/illustrator of the chapter book CALL ME OKLAHOMA! (Holiday House), which School Library Journal called, “A humorous and encouraging tale about standing up to bullies of all shapes and sizes and remaining true to oneself.” This title was selected as one of New York Public Library’s “100 Top Children’s Books of 2013,” and named one of “100 Magnificent Books” by School Library Journal. She’s also author of the middle-grade novel BOX TOP DREAMS (Delacorte), and the picture book HALLOWEENA (Atheneum), illustrated by Victoria Roberts. You can follow Miriam on Twitter @mgglassman
*Marie Lamba is an Associate Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site.