Book Marketing 101

You’ve written a book and perhaps you’ve even signed a contract with a publisher. Think your journey stops here? Well, it doesn’t. And the sooner you accept that, the better off you will be. Sorry, but it’s the ugly truth.

As you probably already know, many publishers require their authors to do the lion’s share of marketing. Unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky ones that received a six figure advance, then you can sit back and relax…even write the next book.  But for the rest of us, well, there’s a lot of work ahead.

The Big 5 and even many small publishers will submit your book for review which is a great start. Favorable reviews will help land your book into libraries, schools, and even reading lists.  I’m willing to bet even the less than stellar reviews help books get noticed (as any parent of an ill-behaved child will tell you, negative attention is still attention!).  But what if you’re with a small press that didn’t submit your book? What if promised reviews never came to fruition?  What’s a children’s author to do when their book hasn’t been reviewed?

As a children’s author, readers aren’t reached in quite the same way as their adult counterparts. So it’s important (albeit a bit difficult) to connect with your readers in the way that they find their next book. I’m definitely no expert, but here’s some tips that should help all authors successfully market their work of genius.

     1. School Visits: This is a tricky step as most school libraries (or at least in Virginia) require the book to be reviewed by at least one major source. If you have the means, consider purchasing extra copies of your book. Donate a copy to your local elementary and/or middle school. Offer free or discounted visits (at least initially) so that you have a better opportunity to reach your readers.

     2. Skype Visits: I’ve connected with some pretty awesome readers through my classroom Skype visits. As a promotion, I’ve offered these free visits to teachers that use Cinderskella in their classroom. Children who wouldn’t have otherwise known about the book become excited about it. The best part is seeing their smiling faces and answering their thoughtful questions.

     3. Libraries/Summer Reading Lists: When Cinderskella was released, I immediately donated a copy to my local library. I had no idea what that small gesture would produce, as I did it solely for the readers, hoping one child would gain something from the message in my book. Shortly after I donated a copy I received a warm thank-you note from the Director as well as an invitation to present at their summer reading program. Am I stoked? You betcha!

     4. Book Signings: I love indie bookstores. They have a wonderful reputation of supporting authors. They will make every effort to reach readers who would be interested in your book. In exchange they like donuts. Cupcakes work well, too.

     5. Festivals/Group signings: Back in April, I was part of YA Fest in Easton, PA. There were over 50 authors present and I even participated in a world record. The friends and connections I made while I was there were invaluable to me. (Look close – my daughter and I are standing directly to the left of the librarian!)

      6.  TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazines, and other media: While most authors would love a spot on Ellen, many will have to settle for the local venue to garner attention of would-be readers. Recently both of my books were featured in Middle Shelf Magazine. Skip ahead to page 47 to get all the deets!

     7. Book Clubs: Oprah and Al Roker are two names that come to mind when it comes to book clubs. Our very own Sheela Chari had her book, Vanished, featured on Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids.  But local book clubs through schools and even homeschool groups are a great way to be involved, too. Volunteer to speak at one of their events to be extra awesome!

     8. Websites and Blogs: It goes without saying that there should be a place on the interwebz for readers to find you. Some professionals argue you should have both a blog and a website, others say one or the other is fine. Whatever you chose, just keep it updated frequently.

     9. Contests and Giveaways: Goodreads, blogs, and other venues are a great way to promote your book through contests and giveaways. Readers love free books!

     10. Book Trailer: I’ve seen some awesome book trailers and others have been a major yawn fest. For me the key is to keep it short (30-60 seconds), highlight the major plot points, and keep the audience engaged. Yup. It’s the query letter in video form.

     11. Swag: Posters, bookmarks, buttons, necklaces…whatever floats your boat – or the boat of your reader! Freebies are fun and they create a way to connect with your audience. If you’re at a signing or school event, be sure to put your John Hancock on those babies. Signed swag isn’t just for those who’ve made a purchase!

     12. Social Media: Most middle-grade readers aren’t on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. So I’ve found that while this isn’t the best way to connect with my readers directly, it’s a viable indirect route to reach them through teachers, librarians, and other industry professionals. I’ve also connected with wonderful authors who have helped promote my books along the way through these various forms of networking.

These ideas, of course, are just a start of all the various ways to reach your audience. But sometimes that’s all you need – one chance, one little start – and you’ll be on your way!

What techniques have you implemented to reach the middle-grade reader?

Amie Borst writes the middle-grade series, Scarily Ever Laughter, with her middle-grade (and middle daughter) Bethanie. Their first book, Cinderskella, released in October 2013. Little Dead Riding Hood follows this October 14th, 2014! Find Amie on her website and both mom and daughter on Facebook!

  1. Lots of good tips here. I’ve found that the personal touch really does help as well. I sent out personal notes to about a hundred librarians in my home state, as well as some in other places, and received some very nice responses. A Smidgen of Sky is in 300 libraries so far, and I think my efforts probably helped. Offering to guest post on well known blogs can be another fun way to introduce readers to your books as well.

  2. I’m just starting on this journey and am very excited to put your ideas to work for my book “Green Bean Dance.” Thanks for the tips!