Oh, how children’s authors in critique groups pray to get published someday! It’s true, just ask them. Hopefully, all of us can find the joy in creating, because I’ve read that it’s as hard to get your unsolicited manuscript published as it is to get into Harvard. And, like a Harvard applicant, it’s entirely possible for a manuscript to be completely deserving and still not get in. So if you win that lottery, yes, publication will most certainly be sweet, but perhaps sweet like dark chocolate with cranberries — delicious but with a slightly tart taste. Because publication brings a new source of stress: MARKETING.
Authors are encouraged if not required to do their own marketing; depending on the size of the press you are published with, you may need to do more or less of it on your own. Most authorly types are not prepared for the social aspect of this endeavor. We are more apt to be good at staying home and communicating with our computers — or with each other while sitting at our computers. But marketing doesn’t have to be daunting. It is just another opportunity to be creative. Even before your book is published, you can set your mind to work on marketing it, which has a most desirous goal: getting your book to readers.
Start simply. Who might know children who will be reading your book? Make a list. How can you reach these people? That’s where you begin. For example, my first book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? (A Story of Divorce), Boulden Publishing, 2008, is one that school counselors might like to have available. I convinced my husband to locate the e-mail addresses of the elementary school contact person for every school counselor association in the United States and I sent an e-mail to each one about my book. It also seemed that my book might make a perfect waiting-room read for a divorce lawyer’s office, so I informed many in that field about my book, particularly if I found that they had book resources listed on their web sites.
My second book, Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room, Character Publishing, 2011, is designed to foster the character trait of organization in its readers. I contacted every company relating to organization that I could find, and told them about my book. Yes, I even commented on the Facebook page of the Container Store. Shameless! And since the story begins and ends with chocolate chip cookies, I asked two bakeries, one in New York and one in my hometown of Andover, Massachusetts, if they’d carry my book packaged with cookies. Both graciously agreed.
Did these actions help sell books? Maybe a few, and maybe connections were made for future sales. I don’t know for sure. But I do believe you need to get the word out about your book. We write to touch lives, and if others don’t know about your book then they can’t be influenced by your words. I heard once that if you don’t do marketing, it’s like making a gourmet dinner and not inviting anyone to eat it.
Start now. As you write, keep a marketing folder for each story and let the creative juices flow in another direction. Then when you do get your contract, you’ll be ready to serve up your story to your readers. I’ve started that folder already for my new book, which is coming out with Pauline Books and Media at the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015. The working title is Before I Sleep (A Bedtime Book of Gratitude). I’m only on the second page of the marketing document, but anytime I find a link or a possible connection, or think of an idea, I add to it. And if you have any ideas I should list in the document for my new book, I’d love to hear them!
So wrap your creative minds around MARKETING: a most important aspect of our profession. Brainstorm some ideas now. Doing this for yourself can help all of us. And if you imagine your book is already published and you have to market it, who knows? That might just help make it happen!
What ideas do you have for marketing your published or pre-published books? Share them in the comments section here on Writers’ Rumpus!