Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Things I learned while working on my first children's book: Promotion

Part Two: Smile-and-error

Promoting the book:
Doing as much as YOU can - and doing it with passion

Many people were shocked at how much time, money and effort I personally put into promoting the book. I found that many people assume that, if you have are a published author or illustrator, you are then lovingly placed in a velvet box and occasionally dusted off and taken out for show-and-tell every now and again. Please let me help to burst that bubble. Being a first-time illustrator is, in some ways, a lot like being an independent musician. (Don't laugh! Okay, laugh. But it's true!) Independent musicians often tour on their own dime to help build their fan base. This parallels with my own first-time children's book illustrator experience, and likely, many other illustrator's experiences as well.

I did my own pre-release promotional postcard mailing. I mailed not only to the 'usual suspects', but also to local libraries, bookstores, and children's stores. (Promote where you live, because 'locals' love to hear about you!!) I built a (simple, but serviceable) web site, bought the domain name and host it myself. I plan, and attend, book signing events and readings as much as I can. Admittedly, I wish I could do more, but I do the best I can. For a few months there, I even toted the book every day and visited bookstores unplanned, seeking to talk directly to someone about the possibility of a signing or reading event. If the contact wasn't there, I'd leave a postcard with a hand-written personal note complete with contact information. I was very chicken at first, and often still am to be honest, but it's actually quite a confidence-building exercise. I got many more 'yes''s than "no"'s! And every time you get a "yes" and connect with a book seller, you are building a new mutually beneficial relationship that will be easy to reignite when your second book is published!

Publishers and PR
Just as a publisher's size, genre and work style can vary widely, so too does the amount of time, money and energy that they can realistically avail to promoting your co-creation. I am certain however, that most publishers do whatever they possibly can to get their books into the hands of those that can properly review or otherwise give publicity to the work. The publishers are just as interested and invested in the book's earning potential than you are, if not more.

In my own experience with The Months, I know that a lot of time and energy was spent on PR and promotion. But I also knew the situation and that I would have a lot of work to do on my own. To that end, I reached out to the marketing director, to let her know what I was willing to do. I stay in touch regularly by email, and always mention any upcoming promotions I have planned. That way, they can cross-promote my events or happenings as well. I also kept the publishing company on my promotional mailing list, so they too would receive any promotional materials. It's good to allow the publisher to experience your own investment in the book in that way! :)

A note about my particular situation: My book "The Months" is the third installment in the "Read Me A Poem" series, which in all titles features classic poetry from deceased poets. Since "The Months" author, Sara Coleridge, is deceased (RIP), the promotional duties were then left to myself and the marketing whiz at LP. I think that this helped fueled me with a little extra proactivity in my approach to promoting the book.

Different experiences
I have heard of situations where the publisher went above and beyond to promote a first-time author or illustrator's book. This is so great - and makes me so happy for those lucky enough to be in such a plum position!! I hope that these instances are not the 'exception' to the rule, but I'm not sure how typical this scenario is.

My feeling is this: If you can think of book promotion as a way to build your audience and connect with them instead of as a scary chore, it is truly the coolest thing, ever!! (...Well, besides working on the book in the first place!) When I get a little bit chicken, I like to remember that I am connecting with other children's book lovers, like myself, so already we have one fundamental thing in common. :)

Stay tuned for
Part Three: Revisions


tusen said...

Kathy, I got your book yesterday and it's awesome! I love your illustrations and it's so great to have them in a book. The design of the book is great, too. And I like the clever idea with the December picture and (I hope I'm guessing right) you showing the book with the January picture :)
And thanks for sharing your experience - it's really interesting.
Greetings from Poland.

claudine hellmuth said...

this is all SO true! even for Craft book genre. both of my books I have promoted all myself and done all the PR. most people think that the publishers do all that for you but they don't. very good advice!

lil kim said...

HI Kathy - thanks so much for this info - always so informing to hear other peoples' experiences. I look forward to the day I can give the advice myself! Cheers.