~Guest blog by Jamie Tan
As a senior publicist at Candlewick Press, my job involves a lot of travel, conversation, logistics, and a ton of e-mail. When I started out in publicity, I walked in thinking that the job would be about reaching out to event and media contacts, acting as an author liaison, and being a public-facing representative of Candlewick Press. The job is that, but with a whole lot of fun and unexpected tasks, mostly involving troubleshooting when the random things go awry.
My typical day at the office involves a myriad of tasks. I set up events, pitch journalists, talk to my authors about plans for their upcoming titles, and contribute to the department hive-mind when we have queries or are looking for fresh leads. I spend most of my day responding to e-mail, checking relevant social media, and planning for future campaigns. In my head, I’m thinking at least two seasons (one year) ahead. It’s nothing compared to my editorial and design colleagues, who are often times thinking two years (or more) out.
A few of the Candlewick books Jamie has publicized.
My typical day at an event or conference involves being an author liaison and amateur photographer. When I am with authors, I make sure I know their schedules inside and out so that I know where we need to be, how to get there, and who to contact if an issue arises. I also want to make sure that the authors are as comfortable and event-ready as possible, which involves taking them out to coffee or simply walking around to ease their nerves. I’ve learned how to situate myself in an audience so that I can take the best photograph possible to be used in social media or a photo round-up post-event. I admit that I’m glued to my phone during events, whether it be I’m waiting for a call or text response to a question, checking to see if anyone has posted about my author on social media, or am trying to decipher the best way to get from point A to point B. For publicists, a strong internet connection and access to their inboxes are musts.
When I think about my job description, I think about it like casting a wide net. I’m trying to hit up every angle I can, even the unusual ones. I get my fair share of rejection, but I also have successes. It can be depressing to send out more than twenty e-mails and not receive a response, but it is gratifying when the twenty-first e-mail you send out gets an enthusiastic response. The one thing I’ve learned? Keep trying. You never know what’s going to happen!
My advice for authors would be to keep an eye out for opportunities. They are my partners in the publicity process, and I really appreciate it when an author has built relationships within the industry that result in being asked to participate in interviews and also appearances. Several of the authors I work with have really robust social media presences which are really helpful in keeping their names in the public eye. While the publicity department and I have access to a wider range of events, authors are able to tap into their local literary scenes and be aware of opportunities that I might not be.
Jamie Tan is a Senior Publicist at Candlewick Press and has her MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College. Before working at Candlewick Press, Jamie worked in events and marketing at several independent bookstores.
You can find her on Twitter @thejamietan.
Guest blog by author, librarian and children’s book buyer Susan Kusel
You’ve written the world’s greatest book. You want to see it everywhere.
But when you walk into a bookstore or library, it isn’t there. As a bookseller and librarian, this is my most frequently asked question from authors: “Why don’t you have my book and how can I get you to carry it?”
Here’s some tips to help get it on the shelf.
First, don’t assume the book isn’t there. Always ask a staff member so they can tell you what’s actually going on. Maybe you’re looking in the wrong section. Maybe it sold out and is being reordered. Maybe someone bought the last copy just before you walked in. Maybe it’s being shelved or is misplaced.
Ask nicely. An author who makes a polite inquiry will get a lot farther than one making demands. You will make more sales in the long run if you are kind and courteous to the people purchasing and selling your books.
Give the name of your publisher and distributor. The buyer needs to know how to buy your book and if they’ve already ordered it. Your publisher’s name is the quickest way of finding that out. If your publisher has a distributor, you should give that as well.
Include the ISBN. This may seem like a small thing to you, but providing the International Standard Book Number saves time for a busy buyer. If applicable, give ISBNs for all formats your book comes in.
Give plenty of time before the book’s release. If you want the book available for the on sale date, you need to provide a long lead-time. Bookstore buyers often buy from publishers 3-6 months before the book goes on sale. Library buyers need time to place the order with their distributors.
Sign stock- but give warning. It’s lovely to offer to sign the store’s stock of your books. Autographed copies help sales. But please don’t show up on a busy Saturday morning. Always get in touch ahead of time. This allows the store to find all the copies of your book, order extra copies, and have someone available to work with you.
Make sure the book is a good fit. Don’t ask a mystery bookstore to carry your picture book or a children’s bookstore to carry your mystery book. Do basic research. If they don’t have your book, it is often not a critique of it. Trust that they know what sells and circulates for them.
Read the policies. If the bookstore states on their website that they don’t take self-published books, don’t try to pitch them one. If a library outlines the books they look for in their collection development policy, read it.
Build a relationship. It’s not about this one book. It’s about getting to know the booksellers and librarians. Make sure it’s a two way street. Buy their books. Attend their programs. Listen to their advice.
Include links. When asked where your book can be bought, include a link to an indie or IndieBound. For those looking for a library that carries your book, link to your local library or WorldCat. Bookstores and libraries do a lot of work promoting you. It makes a difference if you promote them.
Susan Kusel has turned a life as a book lover into many careers as an author, librarian, and book buyer. She is currently the children’s book buyer at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey. She has served on many book award committees, including the 2015 Caldecott committee. Her debut book, The Passover Guest, illustrated by Sean Rubinwill will be published in Spring 2021 with Neal Porter Books/Holiday House.You can find her online at susankusel.com.
Guest Post by Bookstore Owner Paul Swydan
In my short time owning a bookstore, I’ve had the opportunity to view the marketing of a book from a whole new perspective. Frustratingly, good marketing doesn’t guarantee success for your book or for yourself as an author, but without it at some point in the chain – publisher, author, media, distribution point (in my case, independent bookstore) – the chances of a book becoming successful dwindle fast.
As someone who majored in marketing, I have a lot of strong feelings on the subject, and pay attention to it. I think there are a lot of things that authors can do to set themselves up for success. For our purposes here, I’ll stick to the things I like to see as a bookstore owner, though I’m always happy to talk about more general marketing practices. These three items are sort of events-focused, but they are applicable even if you’re not doing an event with the store. A store can only host so many events, after all, and there are thousands of books in each store that won’t have an event tied to it, and we like promoting those books too!
1) Send Us Marketing Materials
We want to promote you and your book. If you’re doing an event at the store, we are going to promote the event. I am particularly fond of promoting the event on social media. You can almost never guarantee a good audience for an event, but beyond the actual event’s attendance, you’re trying to create a perception that you’re a part of an exciting event. You know the old saying, perception is reality. As authors and writers who try to shape reality, we’re a little more likely to scoff at the notion, but it’s true. I won’t fill the bookstore for every event, but when I talk to people in my community, there is a distinct belief that there is always something exciting happening at the bookstore, and the main reason for that is social-media promotion.
So, help us out. Do you have a specific author photo you want us to use? Is there a review you’d like us to quote, or a phrase or tagline you’d like us to use in promoting the book? Can you get your publisher to foot the bill for a poster we can put up in the store? Usually not, but it never hurts to ask.
I’d use Rebecca Kim Wells as an example here. As an Indies Introduce author and a manager/buyer at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Rebecca has experience on both sides of the equation. At the Indies Introduce Breakfast at Children’s Institute, she encouraged people to help her come up with other taglines for her book than the “angry bisexual dragon novel.” I think it’s instructive to think of your book as a marketer would. When I say things like “everyone should read it!” people’s eyes glaze over. If you don’t give people a description, they’ll invent their own, or worse, they’ll simply ignore it.
2) Make Your Own Graphics
Don’t be afraid to make your own graphics either. Are you doing a tour? Most authors don’t get a proper tour, because publishers are only willing and able to pay for a select few. But if you have a few events planned out ahead of your release, there’s no reason you can’t group those together and call them a tour. I’ll single out Rebecca again, because she’s doing a fantastic job. She has nine events lined up ahead of her release at the end of the month. The majority of them are local, but they’re in four different states, and when presented together in an attractive graphic, they look really impressive.
At the very least, this sort of organization is a signal to bookstores and the industry at large that you are a person who knows their business and is serious about promoting themselves. But a lot of bookstores either don’t make their own graphics in Canva or Illustrator or run out of time to make them properly. So if you have a graphic they can use, they’ll likely be more than happy to use yours.
3) Be Creative
The best events are the ones that have something fun and unique. Susan Tan brings a cardboard cutout of her main character, Cilla-Lee Jenkins with her. We call her Cardboard Cilla like she’s another person at the event. People are excited to take pictures with her, including me!
When we did Casey Robinson’s launch party for Iver and Ellsworth, she brought a stuffed Iver that someone had made for her (her mother, I think?). Kids loved squeezing it and holding it. When Gina Perry came for her book, Too Much! Not Enough!, she brought mini kazoos for kids, because one of the characters (Peanut), plays the kazoo in the book. I’m not sure parents really appreciated that giveaway, but the kids sure did! When Scott Magoon came for story time, he took requests from the audience when he was showing how he goes about drawing a picture, and even had some kids come up and draw with him. April Jones Prince prepares a very specific activity/scavenger hunt for each of her books. Brian Lies wraps his car in the graphics from his newest book.
This isn’t to say that we don’t love the standard bookmarks authors often leave with us. We do, in a vacuum. But in practice, here’s where they often end up:
We’re giving out our own bookmarks (that’s our best marketing) and/or selling bookmarks, so we don’t always remember to distribute yours. What can you do that’s a little different? If you weren’t creative, you wouldn’t be an author, so I’m sure there’s something! And if not, ask us. Booksellers are never short on opinions.
Paul Swydan is the owner of The Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, MA. To learn more about The Silver Unicorn visit:
To learn about events coming up at The Silver Unicorn visit: https://www.silverunicornbooks.com/?q=h.calevents
A Guest Post by Book Marketing Coach Colleen Riordan
Imagine for a moment that your books sell like cronuts in Brooklyn every time you publish a new title. Readers are flocking to the bookstores. They’re hyping your book everywhere—even before they’ve had the pleasure of cracking it open.
It’s the dream, right?
Avid readers want good stories. They want your stories. And, if they’re anything like you, then you know how excited these bookworms get. They’re scouring Goodreads and book blogs right and left, on the prowl for their next favorite story. But, they can’t love your book if they don’t know it exists.
This is precisely why authors need email.
The best book marketing, in its simplest form, is just passionately sharing your story with the readers who already want it.
Email makes that easy.
The 3 Myths of Author Email
Authors often argue that they don’t need to use email to communicate with readers. They feel it’s unnecessary, outdated, and time-consuming.
Can you blame them? Social media is exciting and ubiquitous. It’s easy to throw email to the wayside and chase the shiny new toys. Email has been around since the 1970’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s out-of-date. In fact, email is one of the most effective marketing tools today.
Let’s tackle some of the myths that authors believe about why they don’t need to email readers.
Myth 1: Email is unnecessary. Readers will find the books if they really want them.
Imagine if you had an email list of people eager to read your books the moment they get published. These readers are already passionate about what you do, which means they’re more likely to preorder or run out to the bookstore during that first week. If you had enough fans like that, you could hit the bestseller lists book after book.
The book industry has a vast reach. Books are promoted on television, social media, newspapers, and park benches. It’s fantastic because at any moment you might stumble across your next favorite story.
However, books have a lot of competition. Over your average day, you have access to entertainment non-stop. Your phone, computer, television, and radio are filled with high quality content. A great book has to break through all of that noise.
Take a moment to think about how you found the last book you read.
Did you stumble across it on the library shelves? Did your best friend gush about it for weeks? Did you use specific keywords to search for it (or something like it) online?
Most of us don’t have a system for discovering new books. We hear about them on television. We spot our favorite authors reading them on Instagram. We ask our librarians for recommendations.
But between the incredible entertainment already at our fingertips and the sheer volume of advertising we see everyday, even the most die-hard fans are missing out on new book announcements.
Typically, books in a series are published a year apart. That’s a long time for a reader to wait. You can’t expect them to religiously check your website or the bookstore on the first of each month, eagerly awaiting the next book’s release.
Can you see the flaws in this system?
You can’t rely on fate to notify readers about your books. It’s not reliable. It’s not repeatable. You need a method of notifying readers about your books every time something comes out.
If you want to a career as an author, you can’t put the responsibility of hearing about your books on your readers. You need to reach out to them and tell them about these amazing stories. This is why email is perfect.
Myth 2: Email is outdated because social media has taken over the internet.
Social media is an entertaining way to interact with readers. You can quickly share photos, broadcast new messages, and engage with fans in real-time.
So, why not only use social media?
Social media networks like Facebook let readers follow their favorite author’s online presence. Here’s the catch: Facebook is not a direct communication channel. When an author posts their latest book announcement to their Facebook page or profile, Facebook’s algorithm decides which of your followers see it and when.
On average, less than 8% of your audience will see one of your organic posts on Facebook. These are your everyday, unpaid posts. For the average business page, the rate goes down to 2%. That means that a very small portion of your audience is seeing the post you worked so hard to create.
This percentage is variable of course. If you have an incredibly active and engaged audience who love you and regularly comment on your posts or share them, the algorithm will broadcast your posts to more of your followers. However, it still won’t be all of your followers.
Now, 8% might seem tiny, but it doesn’t mean you should skip Facebook entirely. It just means you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. All of your social networks have this problem. You simply cannot reach everyone who is following you.
Why? Because Facebook—or whichever social network you’re using—is the middleman. You don’t get to decide who sees your posts. They do.
Social media networks limit the reach of a post for several reasons.
First, they tailor the newsfeed experience for individuals to show them more of what they already like and less of what they don’t. This is based off the how often someone engages with posts like yours and how much engagement your posts get.
Second, social media is technically considered ‘free.’ (It’s not. You’re exchanging your data for use of their platform.) However, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the social media networks are all businesses that need to make money to survive. One of the ways they monetize their platforms is by asking you to pay to reach more people through ads or sponsored posts.
With email, there is no middleman deciding who sees your message.
It’s direct communication. You write, and your subscribers get to make the active choice about whether they’ll read your email.
Myth 3: Email is difficult and takes time away from writing.
As you can see from what we covered in the previous two myths, you can’t afford to NOT use email.
Without email, you’re taking the risk that even your biggest fans will never find the sequel to books they already loved. They won’t get the chance to share your new release on social media or borrow it from a friend. You’ll waste weeks on carefully constructed social media posts promoting something that few followers will ever see.
To choose to avoid email is to choose to spend more time on your marketing just to reach the same number (or less) of people.
Imagine having an eager audience just waiting to hear from you—with a smile and open arms.
With email, you can have that.
At the core of your book marketing, you need a reliable, one-on-one method for communicating with your fanbase. Email excels at creating real relationships with your readers.
In the author-reader relationship, it’s your responsibility to reach out with news about your upcoming releases, entertaining activities, and book signings or events. Readers have a plethora of entertainment to choose from. You can’t even become a choice if they don’t know you have something coming out.
Through email, you can personalize your messages and treat each subscriber as a unique, book-loving, fan—not just an email address. When your emails are entertaining, educational, and/or aspirational, you are rewarding each and every one of your fans, who will in turn, share their love of your books with the world.
Colleen Riordan is a book marketing coach and the founder of Wild Ink Marketing. She has over eight years of experience in marketing and communications and a deep passion for teaching authors and illustrators how to sell more books and build their careers through the power of book marketing.
To learn more about Colleen and Wild Ink Marketing, please visit Colleen at https://www.wildinkmarketing.com/.
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