Book Launch, marketing tips, time management

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. 

Guest Blog, marketing tips, Picture Books

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour STOP SIX: After The DEBUT

There are many posts about marketing your debut book. But what do you do when it’s your second, or third… or tenth book?  Is your strategy the same?  If not, what’s different? I’m SO glad you asked!  Find my answer today over at the GROG.  Thank you for having me!

marketing tips, Reading

12 WAYS to CELEBRATE your FAVORITE AUTHORS… CREATIVELY!

twelve ways to celebrate authors jpeg.001I originally posted these tips as a little series on my Facebook Author Page. The response to the posts was so positive and fun that I thought it might be useful to gather them all in one spot for easy reference.  Ta-DA!  Done.  =)  Happy celebrating!

TIP #1: Give their books as gifts.

TIP #2: Recommend their books to your friends.

TIP #3: Invite friends to “like” your favorite authors Facebook Author Pages.

TIP #4: Recommend their books for purchase at your school and town libraries.

TIP #5: Review their books on your blog, Goodreads, church/school newsletter etc.

TIP #6: Suggest adding their titles to your library/school’s recommended reading list.

TIP #7: Be spotted reading their books in public! (on train, at park, at café etc.)

TIP #8: Snap pics of their books “in the wild” and share on your favorite social media platform. For extra fun,tag the author.

TIP #9: Be a network facilitator. (i.e. Recommend them for author visits at your school, library etc. )

TIP #10: Thank them for writing with fan mail. (A simple note will make their day!) 

TIP #11:  Have a book-themed birthday party (for kids) or dinner party (for grownups!). 

TIP #12: Read one of their books when it’s your turn to be “guest reader” in preschool/elementary school, and/or (if your author writes for adults) recommend their book to your book club.

Book Launch, marketing tips, Reading

Marketing the SNOW BALL Way!

IMG_0607Your debut book is out! You have several copies in your hands to prove it. It’s available in stores and online. You’ve had a blog tour. Perhaps you even have a book trailer. And to your delight, the reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist etc. have started to come in and you are getting a growing number of reviews on GoodReads and Amazon.

What should you do now? I’ve found that doing book events at stores, libraries and schools has been a great (and fun) way introduce each of my books locally and beyond.

In celebration of the release of both the hardcover and board versions of each of my books, I set a goal of doing between 15 and 20 events. These included events at book stores, libraries, a local ceramics shop, and a Christmas festival. I’ve also done story times at book fairs, nursery schools, both in person and via Skype, and this year I’ve even branched out and spoken at a couple of church-based women’s events. Oh, and I was on tv! And even though Goodnight, Manger has been out for over a year now, and Goodnight, Ark has been out for two, I still try to brainstorm creative event possibilities and schedule a couple of events per month.

I arranged my first three book events by simply calling local bookstores and sending follow-up emails that included details about the book as well as a link to the book trailer. But in the big picture I’m learning that cold calls aren’t the most effective strategy.  More often than not, they don’t go anywhere.

Instead, I have found that having some connection, or someone to introduce you, works best. For example, at my first bookstore event, I met a woman who loved the book and recommended it to the director at her daughter’s preschool.  That led to my first preschool visit.  The director of that school enjoyed the visit and mentioned it at a regional preschool directors’ meeting.  That led to more events. Similarly, one bookseller thought I did a nice job presenting the story and recommended me for an in-store book fair with a local preschool. I subsequently did yet another in-store book fair at another store branch. And now, several times a year, I’m invited back to both book stores for in-store book fair events. Most of my library events have also been initiated by recommendations from people that knew of me and my book.

To use a wintry analogy on this snowy day, I would say this marketing strategy has a delightful snowball effect with each visit leading to others.  All it takes is a little effort to get the ball rolling. With that in mind, the first thing I would recommend to first time authors is to make a list of friends/colleagues you know who have connections to area bookstores, schools and libraries and see if they will make introductions for you.

imageDon’t fret if you don’t make a stunning number of sales at each event. A few sales are nice, yes, but your deeper, more lasting goal should really be about raising awareness.  As two booksellers have reminded me, a book event is really about much more than the hour or two you are physically present at the event. It’s about generating interest in your book. And see the picture (left) which shows my book on display in the window of Books and Co. (And Toys Too!), a lovely independent bookstore in Lexington, VA where I had two signings? Only ONE family came to the morning signing.  But the owner was not concerned.  Indeed, she was delighted because each day leading up to the book event (and afterwards too) customers, having seen the book in the window, came in to purchase copies.  She sold 77 the week of that event and even now, two years later, she says that my books continue to be regular sellers.

So take my snowball advice and have a ball at local book events!  It’s worth every snowflake.

Picture Books

CRAZY FOR BOOKS: Thoughts on Rainbow Looms® and Kid-Talk

IMG_2241This summer the kids at our local pool are busily weaving rubber band bracelets using something called the Rainbow Loom®. These looms aren’t easy to come by.  You can only find them at Learning Express, a handful of independent shops, or online which means it takes a little extra effort to acquire one. Has this deterred the craze? Not one bit. As I sit under my umbrella, kids ranging in age from five to fifteen huddle around nearby tables weaving between dips in the pool.  And while the kids swim, their mothers sneak turns on the loom.

It wasn’t like this in early June. Then, only one or two kids had looms, but when the other kids tried the looms, excitement spread.  Kids asked their moms if they could have looms.  Moms took the time to seek out the looms.  More kids saw and tried the looms.  More moms went shopping and the craze was on!  Sitting here now, I’m surrounded by looms. My daughter (whose fingers and wrist are pictured above) is busily weaving bracelets for every possible holiday. Her enthusiasm is contagious and several kids have stopped by to admire her handiwork.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be thrilled if my debut picture book enjoyed the same popularity as the Rainbow Loom®. So, what’s the secret to such smashing success?

First, you need a great product. For picture books this means creating engaging stories with wonderful illustrations that spark readers imaginations and make them want to read the story again and again.

Second, the product needs to be readily available. As the Rainbow Loom® proves, however, this doesn’t mean our books must figure prominently in every national bookstore. They must, however, be available enough places so that our readers can easily acquire them.

But what’s the most important factor, in my opinion? The kid-talk! Rainbow Looms® have taken over our pool because kids spread the word. So, how do we get kids (and their parents) excited about our books?  By interacting with them!  This means scheduling book signings and readings. It means getting into classrooms with in-person or Skype visits (as Tara Lazar  did so beautifully in my daughter’s class).  Using social media like Twitter and Facebook is another way to get the word out and generate some interactive excitement.

As a first-time picture book author with a launch date of next August (’14), I’d love to hear your ideas.  What have you done or seen done that effectively generates excitement about newly published books and gets kids and parents talking? Let the comments begin! =)