Before my debut book was released I made sure I had a social media presence, a website, and I planned a launch party. But I didn’t know what else to do to get my book out in the world.
So I’ve compiled some tips to help you market your first children’s book and beyond.
Make a Plan
Find out what your publisher will be doing to market and publicize your book. They will likely be sending out review copies to trade reviewers, like Kirkus, and to bloggers and Instagram book influencers. They might also be planning to place advertising, invite you to a conference, or even arrange a virtual book tour.
However, Kirsten W. Larson, author of A True Wonder: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything, reminds us that we’re our book’s biggest advocate, “It’s up to you to ask for what you need, whether that’s conference opportunities or copies of your book to send to bloggers and Instagrammers. The worst someone can tell you is ‘no.’”
Colleen Riordan of Wild Ink Marketing says, “Write down the tools and people you already have in your corner. These include your website, any social media profiles, email list, as well as the friends, family, and acquaintances who may be interested in supporting you with their own audiences and opportunities. Once you have taken stock of what you have, then you can plan for how and where you want to spend your time marketing.”
Build a Website
If you don’t already have a website, now is the time to get one. There are many different platforms you can use. I use Wix and I really like how easy it is to use. Squarespace is also popular. When choosing a domain name, do not use the name of your book. You want this website to see you through many books so buy a domain that can last your whole career such as your name. If you have a common name you could add “author” or “writer” to it to make it unique.
Colleen Riordan says, “Your website acts as your home base online. It's where people visit to learn more about your books and get in touch with you. It doesn't need to be flashy or expensive, but it should professionally convey the information your visitors are looking for. This is vital because if they can't easily learn more about you and your books, they will pursue other books instead.”
If you’re writing for children, your audience won’t be on social media, but their parents, teachers, and librarians will be. Retweet and repost your fellow creators' work, get involved in conversations, and keep your marketing posts balanced with other content. Followers do not want to see constant adverts on your feed, they want to get to know the person behind the books, too.
You don’t need to be on every platform, Colleen Riordan says, “Choose the one to two social media platforms you use the most. Social media marketing is far more effective when you can devote real time to engaging with your audience.”
Make Friends with Booksellers
Local booksellers love meeting local authors and supporting their books. Bring along some business cards, a review-copy if you have one, and say hello. Having a relationship with your local bookstores will help when it comes to arranging future launch parties and school visits, plus they’ll recommend your book to customers.
Prepare to Launch
- Think about the space and make sure there is enough room for the number of people you expect, and whatever else you are planning: activity, refreshments, book signing, etc.
- Send out a save the date as soon as you have a date.
- Set a budget and stick to it. It's easy to overspend.
- Remember that everyone is there to support you and cheer you on. It's a friendly crowd.
You can also plan online events. Kirsten Larson held a virtual Q&A session with the illustrator of A True Wonder, Katy Wu. “Because it was virtual, we could invite friends and family around the world. Events themselves can be hit or miss, so I think of them more as celebrations than marketing.”
As soon as you sell your book to a publisher you can look for, or start, a launch group made up of creators who have a book coming out in the same year as you.
Margaret Chiu Greanias says, “Working with a marketing group has been so valuable. These authors are facing similar challenges that I am, and I learn so much from their experiences. They provide a sounding board for things I'm thinking about as well as moral support.”
Margaret adds that being a part of a group helps her focus on a manageable number of tasks instead of trying to do everything, “For example, my marketing group, The Soaring '20s, will often submit group proposals for conferences and festivals. So, I'm not as focused on searching out those types of opportunities and I try to give back in other ways. I spearheaded creating a holiday marketing video that we shared to social media and got thousands of views.”
Kirsten Larson, also a Soaring '20s member, agrees that joining a group makes marketing easier, “Often joint promotions get better traction than anything I could do on my own. We leave honest reviews of each other's books and, as budgets allow, ask our libraries to buy the books.”
Kirsten offers this advice on starting a launch group, “It starts by getting the right people on board. You want folks whose books reach the same general audience; who bring diverse skills to the table; and are committed to spending some time each month on marketing.” See the link under Resources to get a free download from Soaring ‘20s about setting up launch groups.
Drum Up Preorders
Many creators run preorder campaigns to encourage readers to order the book well ahead of the publishing date. Kirsten Larson says of her second book, “I focused my energy on preorders. Katy Wu, the book's illustrator, designed some beautiful postcards, which we provided as preorder bonuses through a local indie, Once Upon a Time Books.”
Other creators have given away stickers, prints, or bookmarks but it can be hard to decide how many items to order. Hannah Holt, author of the upcoming A History of Underwear with Professor Chicken, ran an informal poll on Twitter and concluded, “Most author-led preorder campaigns generate fewer than 50 sales (70%). Run them if they make you happy. Don't stress about them if they don't.”
Social media trends may come and go but build an email list and you’ll always have an audience of people who have signed up to hear from you. I use substack but other tools include Constant Contact and Mailchimp.
Colleen Riordan says, “Emails sell books. Someone who is already interested in your books can drop off before purchasing simply because life is busy. When you email them, you can motivate them to follow through and buy your book.”
Pick and Choose
There are many things you can do to launch your book, but you won’t have time to do everything. Margaret Chiu Greanias suggests, “Pick a few things that you think you'd enjoy doing and do them well.”
Kirsten Larson agrees, “If you enjoy social media, do social media. If you enjoy speaking engagements and conferences, prioritize those.”
Write Another Book
You can market your existing books by publishing another one. I know, easy to say. But when you have a new book, sales for your previous books will also increase as new readers discover you for the first time. So do not spend all your precious writing time on marketing, go write another book!
Newsletters — Soaring '20s (soaring20spb.com) - sign up to download the free “Getting Started Guide for co-marketing groups”