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.

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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! =)