ORGANIZING a BOOK LAUNCH: Notebook Style!

In just under four months my seventh children’s book, Happy Birthday Christmas Child, published by Paraclete Press and illustrated by Gabi Murphy will release.  For a couple of months already, I have been busy preparing for release day. And as I have been doing so, I’m realizing that over the course of these seven books, I have hit upon a strategy that really works for me in terms of keeping track of all the many moving parts that go into successfully welcoming a new book into the world.  The moving parts include communicating with the publisher to see what their plans are and complementing/enhancing those with your own publicity efforts including setting up social media/blog/podcast opportunities, building and working with a launch team, setting up in-person and virtual book events at stores, schools etc., creating ancillary materials for your book like lessons, activities, etc. and more. 

All this can seem a bit daunting, but I think I’ve found a way to keep it manageable. What’s my secret?  For each of my books I have created a book launch notebook which serves as ground control for all aspects of the launch.  And today, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek into how I have organized it. 

Here’s the cover. There’s logic behind this colorful cover.  I want it to stand out and be easy to find. Having it be book-themed and cute is also motivating to me to persevere with my planning because good things come to those who plan ahead.

Small (but not too small). I have chosen a 5”by 7” notebook with a thick and sturdy cover so it’s small enough to toss into my bag and carry with me, but not so flimsy as to slip between the cushions of my sofa which happened with my first book launch notebook and, oh my, but I was stressed before I found it again!

Front page.  Here I have clearly noted the title of the book that is releasing, the publisher as well as two over-arching goals. 

Five Sections. The notebook is divided into five sections, each marked for now with a post-it, though I may switch those for paper clips as I get going, for extra easy flipping.

Section One: Events. This section has two parts. 

The first is a summary page which will be filled in later, once I have all my events in place so I can list them in date order. This page also include columns with each book title so I can note how many books were sold as a result of each event. (It’s fun to look back and see the grand total of sales I directly influenced over the years and also is good for analysing what worked well (or didn’t) at each event.)

The second is a large, continuing section where I make notes on each of the events as I set them up.  I also fill in dream destinations and then see if I can make them happen. 

Section Two: Blog, Podcasts, Press etc.  This also has two sections. 

The first is a summary page, which again I will fill in later, once I have everything in place.  It will include the date, venue, and topic with the goal of reaching a range of target audiences including teachers, librarians, parents, faith-based ministries, writers and more.  I will also strive for a range of topics and formats so it all feels fresh and fun. 

The second, again, is a large, continuing section where I make notes on each of opportunities as I set them up. I also leave open boxes for dream opportunities and then see if I can make them happen (such as being on a nationally or regionally syndicated show! A girl can dream, right?)

Section Three: Launch Team. This section is for contacts, who aren’t necessarily bloggers etc, but who are active in their communities and who have said they’d be happy to help spread word about my newest book. This list typically includes teachers, librarians, directors, friends, moms in the thick of the preschool years etc.  Again it includes two parts. The first is a list of who they are. The second is a list of tasks/requests for them to do (if they so choose). All efforts are voluntary and doing even just one or two helps!  The tasks include things like telling three friends about the book, suggesting it for purchase at local libraries and schools, taking a picture reading the book and then sharing on social media, writing a Goodreads review etc. 

Section Four: Libraries This is where I record libraries that I or others have reached out to to recommend the book for acquisition – along with a column for the result.  

Section Five: Daily Actionable Steps  This is the secret sauce to the success of the launch.  It’s also what keeps everything manageable.  The secret?  I set myself a goal to take two manageable/actionable steps per day towards reaching my book launch goals and I record them at the back of the notebook, working from the last page towards the front.  I simply record the action taken. This can be as small as reaching out to a venue or creating an order form for a school visit.  Just two small steps per day, recorded at the back of the notebook.  Each daily effort is entered in the left hand column, with the eventual result in the right hand column.  Keeping this list helps me remember what small steps I have taken and serves as a reminder for what I need to follow up on until I have a result.  

And that’s my notebook!  Anyone else have something similar?  I’d love to hear what works for you or if you plan on giving something like this a try. Happy Monday, all. 

TWELVE TIPS for READING ALOUD to 3 – 7 YEAR OLDS at BOOK EVENTS

Reading to the young is fun, but can be challenging if you are new to it.  With that in mind, here are twelve tips for capturing and keeping the attention and interest of preschool – K-2 audiences at picture book read-aloud events. (Perfect for authors or anyone reading aloud to this age range.)

BEFORE THE STORY:

  1. Have the children gather around you – close up.
  2. Begin with a focusing activity, such as a song or clapping response game (or a fun book-themed gameshow style quiz as I do with LITTLE EWE).
  3. Briefly tell a little bit about who you are, your inspiration for story etc. in a playful, kid-friendly way.  (Optional:  Bring a long a couple of props to help with this.  I bring puppets and, perhaps a hat or other book-themed apparel, such as my most recent bunny hat that I wore whilst reading BUNNY FINDS EASTER!)

DURING THE STORY:

4. Be animated and excited. Read with expression.

5.  Make eye contact. Remember, you aren’t just reading, you are interacting with your readers.

6.  Before turning each page, be sure to hold the book up and pan it around the room slowly so everyone has a chance to enjoy the illustration.

7. Involve the children in the storytelling. (By using body motions and sounds, for example.)

8. Pause occasionally to point out something from the illustrations that they might not notice, but which adds to the story.

9. As you read, occasionally ask questions like “What do you think will happen next?  Would you want to be…?”  (But don’t do #8 and #9 so much that you break the flow of the story.)

AFTER THE STORY:

10. Share a fun post-reading activity such as a simple craft or song.

11. Depending on age and attentiveness of group, have a brief Q&A session.

12. Thank the children for being such a great audience and thank their parents or guardians for bringing them to the event.  Remember also to thank the event host.

12 Tips for the SHY Picture Book Author at Book Signings

As a child I was so shy that my mother was always thinking up well-meaning ways to get me out of my shell. For example, she signed me up for guitar lessons in the fifth grade in the hopes that some day I would be the it-girl at parties who would pull out her guitar and lead the gang in a rousing round of camp-fires songs. I did learn to play the guitar, but I preferred playing quietly in my room.

Over the years, I’ve learned to overcome my shyness and though I still prefer plucking my guitar in the quiet of my house, I love sharing my stories with others at book signings and other author events.

Still, when I sit down at the table in the book store or other venue, the deep inner-shyness still occasionally overcomes me. So now, for all those other shy-ish authors, here are 12 tips for making the most at book events and having fun in the process. I hope they are helpful. And if you have any tips to add, please share in the comments!

TIP #1: Use signage as an introduction. This will make it clear, without your having to say a thing, that you are an author doing a book signing.

TIP #2: Wear something colorful or that makes a special statement. This is good way to make a little splash, again, without having to say a thing.  It can also become a great conversation starter – or at least good for some smiles – if you wear something that coordinates with the books. For example, I wear a pink boa at signings for Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse.

TIP #3: Come prepared with something that can serve as an ice breaker.  Having something at your display that will arouse the curiosity of passers-by, such as sample sketches from the book or swag, is a great way to engage potential book-buyers who may stop to take a look and you can start a conversation with something easy like, “Aren’t those sketches neat? They are from my new book…” Or, for my newest book Little Ewe, I thought a nice conversation starter would to be knitting some fun swag. I thought it would attract the attention of knitters and others who love crafts and who might also be interested in books. And it did! Invariably, they asked, “What are you knitting?” and just like that, the conversation was off to a lovely start as we shared our love of knitting and books! 

TIP #4: Smile and say hello.  Simple and effective.  Need I say more?

TIP #5: Follow up that “hello” with a simple invitation to look at your books. It can be something as simple as, “I’m the author (or illustrator) of these books. Feel free to take a look.”

TIP #6: Ahead of time think of a short fun fact to share about each book. For example, you might share the inspiration behind the book or something about the illustrator or the book’s dedication.  

TIP #7: Make medal-shaped post-its with names of any awards your books have won to tack onto the covers.  This is another example of letting signage do some of the talking. 

TIP #8: Breathe. Drink plenty of water.

TIP #9: Have printouts on hand for author visits etc. (Just in case.)

TIP #10: Say thank you. After the signing, thank the book store owner for inviting you and offer to sign any remaining books. The next day, send a thank you email as well, planting the seed that you’d love to do a signing when your next book releases.

TIP #11: Share a couple of pictures on your socials celebrating the event.  This is a variation on the “letting the signage do some of the talking” principle and a great way to get people excited about your books. 

TIP #12: Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: STOP FOUR !

IMG_7643Today I am delighted to be guest blogging over at picture book author and librarian Lauri Fortino’s blog on one of my favorite topics: USING PUPPETS TO ENGAGE YOUNG READERS. Plus, you’ll get to meet Little Owl, my newest puppet storytelling companion.  (And I hear there is a giveaway, too!) Thank you for having me, Lauri.   So fly on over, friends. I’ll make it easy for you.  Here’s the link.

AUTHOR VISITS… Puppet Style!

IMG_1044My decision to use puppets at author visits began quite by chance. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in my first book, and figuring that some of my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be an engaging way to introduce the story. Quite honestly, the former teacher (and crowd control freak) in me, also thought skunk puppets might be a friendly way to help young audiences settle down before and during the reading since, as you know, skunks are notorious for making a big stink if they get startled.

Well, the skunks were such a great hit, that when my second book came out, I knew I wanted to pair that story with a book-specific puppet as well. Without too much trouble, thanks to the wonderful puppet designers at Folkmanis, I found the perfect companion — Rooster!

Rooster’s very loud which, quite frankly, is a big problem because Goodnight, Manger is a bedtime story and bedtime is supposed to be quiet. So together, the kids and I decide that we’ll show Rooster what “quiet” looks and sounds like. After we’ve read the story, we see if we can teach him do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo.  If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a lullaby to Baby Jesus. And once again, like those stinky skunks, Rooster, too, has been a big hit.

In fact, these darling puppets have been so popular at author events, I’ve decided that each and every picture book that I write must be paired with at least one puppet. So far I’ve been lucky and have found perfect matches.  Now, with more books in the publication pipeline, I am again in the market for puppets.  Without revealing too much…. I need an adorable mouse, an owl, and if possible, a seal!  Any leads?  =)

Happy author visits, all! And perhaps you, too, will decide to bring a puppet along to your next author visit.

TWELVE TIPS to Engage VERY Young Audiences at Picture Book Author Events

image_2Reading to the very young is fun, but challenging.  Here are twelve tips for capturing and keeping the attention and interest of very young audiences at picture book author events.

BEFORE THE STORY:

  1. Have the children gather around you – close up.
  2. Begin with a focusing activity, such as a song or clapping response game.
  3. Briefly tell a little bit about who you are, your inspiration for story etc. in a playful, kid-friendly way.  (Optional:  Bring a long a couple of props to help with this.  I bring puppets, for example.)

DURING THE STORY:

4. Be animated and excited.  Read with expression.

5.  Make eye contact. Remember, you aren’t just reading, you are interacting with your readers.

6.  Before turning each page, be sure to hold the book up and pan it around the room slowly so everyone has a chance to enjoy the illustration.

7. Involve the children in the storytelling. (By using body motions and sounds, for example.)

8. Pause occasionally to point out something from the illustrations that they might not notice, but which adds to the story.

9. As you read, occasionally ask questions like “What do you think will happen next?  Would you want to be…?”  (But don’t do #8 and #9 so much that you break the flow of the story.)

AFTER THE STORY:

10. Share a fun post-reading activity such as a simple craft or song.

11. Depending on age and attentiveness of group, have a brief Q&A session.

12. Thank the children for being such a great audience and thank their parents or guardians for bringing them to the event.  Remember also to thank the event host.